RCGP calls for pandemic flu vaccine programme

The DoH should consider vaccinating all patients in at-risk groups with a pre-pandemic H5N1 vaccine to help protect against an influenza pandemic, the RCGP has advised.

The call comes after GlaxoSmithKline received the first positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency for the use of its H5N1 pre-pandemic vaccine, called Prepandrix.

Results from a series of clinical trials have shown that Prepandrix offers protection against a number of H5N1 variant strains currently circulating.

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman and Berkshire GP, said the DoH should look to introduce the pre-pandemic vaccine into the immunisation programme in time for this September. Patients in at-risk groups and healthcare workers should be targetted, he said.

'We cannot rely on just anti-viral drugs to help fight a pandemic as they are an emergency measure. In the long-term, it is better to vaccinate with a pre-pandemic vaccine,' he added.

A DoH spokesperson said: 'The science underpinning the further development and potential use of pre-pandemic vaccine is cutting edge and has just been reviewed by the UK, and other international experts.

'We are considering the findings and the implications for our policy to inform future decisions and Prepandrix will be one of the vaccines we will be considering in these decisions.'

In 2006, the DoH stockpiled 3.3 million cases of an H5N1 pre-pandemic vaccine for healthcare workers.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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