Last week the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) gave their recommendation for two vaccines to combat the H1N1 or swine flu that is facing the world. This recommendation leads the way for mass vaccine programs to begin as soon as they are approved which could happen as early as next week. Government and healthcare professionals have been worried about dealing with a second outbreak that could begin as we approach winter so the entire process has been expedited to be better prepared.
The EMEA gave the nod to the two new drugs which are manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis. The vaccines are called Pandermix and Focetria.
A third vaccine by Baxter did not pass the committees approval process but it is still being considered.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that there will only be enough vaccines produced by drug makers to cover about half the planet – roughly 3 million doses a year. It will be determined who is most at risk and who would be top priority to receive the vaccines.
It is also being decided whether one dose or two shots will do the trick. The WHO feels that one vaccine will be effective in treating the pandemic but the EMEA thinks that some people should receive one vaccine and then get another dose after three weeks.
The vaccines are considered safe to use and both the new versions contain adjuvants which are substances that build up the immune system so they require less of the active ingredient, the antigen, in each dose.
The Glaxo vaccine has only 3.75 micrograms of the antigen in each dose while the Novartis shot has almost twice that amount – 7.5 micrograms. Non-adjuvanted vaccines normally carry 15 micrograms.
While richer nations have enough money to ensure that they can obtain enough vaccines for their people, poorer countries have to rely on the generosity of others. In the beginning of September, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccines to fight the H1N1 swine flu from four drug companies: AstraZeneca’s MedImmune division, Sanofi-Aventis, CSL and Novartis.
According to the WHO, an initial distribution of the more than 300 million doses, which were donated by other countries to over 90 countries in need, will begin sometime in November.
Symptoms of the swine flu include headache, sore throat, runny nose, loss of appetite, aching muscles, diarrhea or vomiting and unusual feelings of fatigue. One of the first signs of the flu is a fever so officials suggest you keep a thermometer on hand and know how to determine your temperature.
You should contact your physician if you are someone who would be considered at risk, such as someone who is pregnant, has a compromised immune systems and children under the age of one who are already ill. Contact your physician if your symptoms get worse suddenly or they do not appear to be going away after a week, five days for small children.