H1N1 FLU PANDEMIC: Vaccine available to all

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July 15, 2009
H1N1 FLU PANDEMIC
Vaccine available to all <!–10 min–>

The H1N1 vaccine – given possible side effects – will be offered to people on ‘a voluntary basis’. — PHOTO: REUTERS

WITH pharmaceutical companies across the globe racing to develop a vaccine for Influenza A (H1N1), it is only a matter of time before Singapore has a guard against it. When such a vaccine becomes available, it will be sold at general practitioner clinics and be available to the public here.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said this in an e-mail response to a Straits Times query on its vaccination plan.

This strategy is similar to existing arrangements for other vaccinations, including the seasonal flu jab.

The ministry added that the H1N1 vaccine – given possible side effects – will be offered to people on ‘a voluntary basis’. This means anyone who wants the vaccine will be able to approach their doctor for it, when it becomes available.

In 1976, a vaccine rushed into distribution against a different type of swine flu in the United States caused high rates of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare and potentially paralysing neurological disorder.

This time, key considerations in procuring the pandemic vaccine will be safety and efficacy, which can be determined only after full clinical trials are done, said an MOH spokesman. With the situation still evolving, the effectiveness of the vaccine, should a more virulent H1N1 strain virus appear, remains uncertain.

When asked about costs, she added: ‘Those who wish to be vaccinated, after considering their risk profile and understanding the possible side effects of any vaccination, will have to pay for it.’ But patients who have difficulty paying for the drug will be given the necessary assistance, she said.

The ministry’s response reiterates Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s position earlier when he said that Singapore would order enough H1N1 vaccine for the entire population.

‘We will secure adequate supply of H1N1 vaccine for our people,’ he said at a press conference last month.

The MOH is currently evaluating submissions from three tenderers from its recent open tender exercise to supply a vaccine, but did not reveal more details.

JESSICA JAGANATHAN

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