EU approves new swine flu vaccines
The European Commission on Tuesday cleared for distribution in Europe two new vaccines developed by Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline.Brussels -- The European Commission on Tuesday cleared for distribution in Europe two new vaccines to fight a swine flu pandemic, amid fears about a second wave of the potentially deadly virus.
"Today the European Commission granted variations to two existing authorisations for vaccines for influenza pandemic A(H1N1)," the European Union's executive body said in a statement.
The decision on the two vaccines -- Pandemrix and Focetria -- was pushed through in late September by the European Medicines Agency amid growing concern about the new winter influenza season and a rise in British cases of swine flu.
The commission said the vaccines will be authorised for use in all 27 EU member nations as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
"That should ensure that sufficient vaccines will be available before the start of the flu season and will reduce the risks for illnesses and deaths for European citizens," the statement said.
The commission expected its authorisation to take effect by 1 October.
The move comes after the number of new swine flu cases in Britain almost doubled in a week, in the second weekly increase following a quiet summer period, according to official British data released in late September.
The Pandemrix vaccine was produced by British pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline, while Focetria was developed by Swiss peer Novartis.
Health experts warned of a second wave of flu as the northern hemisphere winter nears.
On Thursday, the World Health Organisation said pharmaceutical firms can produce only three billion doses of swine flu vaccines a year, covering less than half of the global population.
However, tests on the vaccine show that just one shot would offer sufficient protection against the A(H1N1) virus and that the vaccine is as safe as seasonal flu vaccines, the UN agency added.
At least 3,917 people have died from the A(H1N1) virus since it was discovered in April, according to the WHO's weekly bulletin issued Friday. There were 2,948 fatalities in the Americas region.
AFP / Expatica