By Daily Mail Reporter
Law firms ‘seeking to jump swine flu vaccine queue’
Law firms are planning to jump the queue for the swine flu vaccine ahead of more vulnerable people, it has been claimed.
More than 13million people – most with underlying health problems such as heart trouble, chronic lung disease, asthma and diabetes – will be eligible for jabs, starting in October.
And children and babies with health problems which put them at risk of dying from swine flu are to be offered a vaccine jab within weeks.
But there are claims that the programme is being rushed through without sufficient testing.
Mothers-to-be will also be included, along with more than two million front-line health workers.
The vaccines are undergoing a fast-track testing process, with trials in England and Europe.
However, safety trials will not involve any children under three, despite babies and toddlers with underlying health problems being first in the queue for jabs.
The European Medicines Agency is expected to license vaccines being developed by the GSK and Baxter companies in late September or early October, days before the vaccination programme is due to commence in the UK.
Most other developed countries – including the U.S. – are adopting the same fast-track trial system.
Latest figures released yesterday show the estimated number of cases of swine flu continues to fall, from 30,000 last week to 25,000.
Dr Richard Halvorsen, a prominent critic of vaccines, said this raised questions about the hasty introduction of widespread vaccination based on ‘insufficient testing’.
Last month Dr Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organisation’s flu chief, warned about the potential dangers.
He said: ‘There are certain areas where you simply do not try to make any economies. One of the things which cannot be compromised is the safety of vaccines.’
UK government health officials insisted the safety of the vaccines was not in doubt, because they are based on a novel H5N1 pandemic vaccine which had already under-gone extensive testing.
Although the swine flu virus involves a different H1N1 strain, this was the only element of the vaccine that needs changing.
One trial of 300 adults is being held in Leicester while a second trial, involving around 900 children over three, is taking place in Oxford, Bristol, Southampton and Hertfordshire.
Clinical trials are rarely carried out on small children, partly because of the difficulties in organising them, limited financial return for drug companies and ethical issues.
So far victims of suspected swine flu have been given antiviral medication such as Tamiflu.
But many children have suffered side-effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and nightmares.
Professor David Salisbury, the Government’s director of immunisation, said it was vital that at-risk groups should be protected as soon as possible.
He claimed the benefit of giving it to under-threes was ‘strong’ because young children in at-risk groups had serious conditions which would be made ‘much worse’ if they got the flu.
Dr Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said he did not have concerns about the lack of testing in young children.
‘If I’m faced by a parent with a child under three who has serious underlying health problems, I don’t think there is a dilemma because swine flu could be a serious threat to the child.
‘I have spoken to the Chief Medical Officer and I do not believe he would do anything to compromise the safety of any patient. I would give the jabs to my children.’
But Dr Halvorsen, author of The Truth About Vaccines, questioned whether sufficient testing would have been completed before Britons were asked to have the jabs in a two-stage process.
He said: ‘The testing is being rushed through faster than any vaccine testing programme in history, yet it’s not long enough to really see whether it’s safe and effective.
‘Do we really need a mass vaccination programme for an illness which is relatively mild in most people and has caused fewer deaths than seasonal flu?’
Vaccines – The Risks, the Benefits, the Choices (Film) *