France receives first swine flu vaccines
The first batch of swine flu vaccine arrived in limited quantity on Thursday in France ahead of market approval.Paris – France received its first batch of newly developed swine flu vaccine on Thursday, Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said, without specifying the type of vaccine or the precise number of doses.
Bachelot told a press conference the French government had received a "limited quantity" of vaccine for the A(H1N1) flu virus, ahead of its licensing by health authorities for public distribution.
She would not say who supplied the vaccines, but confirmed that France had placed an order with US pharmaceutical firm Baxter, Sanofi-Pasteur in France, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Britain and Swiss group Novartis.
Baxter and Novartis have both applied for approval to market vaccines made from cell-based cultures, which produce far greater yields than the traditional method of growing viruses in chicken eggs.
Baxter has already finished several batches of its cell-based brand Celvapan, and said it will begin delivery while waiting for approval from national health authorities.
France has reserved 94 million doses of vaccine from the four laboratories, and expects to have several million doses by mid-October, when the vaccines are set to be granted market approval, Bachelot said.
She said the government was not disclosing the number of vaccines received so far "for security reasons."
"There is no question of administering them before they have been approved for distribution," she added.
The French government called on regional authorities Thursday to have their free vaccination plans ready to activate on 28 September.
France had considered itself spared the worst of the A(H1N1) flu pandemic until this week, with 1,200 cases and two fatalities on the mainland since the start of the epidemic, compared to 10 times more cases and 66 deaths in Britain.
But an outbreak in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, with eight fatalities in total, and a change in the method of counting cases put the issue back on the front page.
Based on the number of visits to doctors across France, the government now estimates the number of new infections at 3,000 per week.
And John Oxford, professor of virology at Britain's St Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital and leading expert on influenza, warned in an interview with AFP that France could be heading for a tough winter.
"Some countries in Europe will have it worse than others. France, for example, will have it worse than England. A lot of people have been infected in England, and they are not going to be infected all over again.
"The virus has already moved through England. Which could mean more aggravation in France, which is hardly touched for the moment," he said.
AFP / Expatica