KATHMANDU, Sept 5: The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has suspended the import and use of over 2.7 million pandemrix vaccines manufactured by a global company for protecting people from influenza-A (H1N1), generally known as swine flu.
The MoHP decided not to immediately import pandemrix vaccines on the basis of its intra-ministry technical panel´s recommendations. The panel has recommended to the MoHP to not import pandemrix vaccines following reports of complications.
Some swine flue patients have reportedly suffered symptoms of neurolepsy disease after receiving pandemrix vaccines manufactured by the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) -- a global pharmaceutical firm -- in some European countries.
"We will import pandemrix vaccines only if the World Health Organization (WHO)´s investigation clearly reveals that GSK´s vaccines do not have anything to do with neurolepsy symptoms," said Dr Laxmi Raj Pathak, spokesperson at the MoHP.
According to Dr Pathak, WHO has already constituted a committee to investigate the possibility of pandemrix vaccines´ complications in swine flu patients.
In the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden, according to Dr Pathak, some swine flu patients, who received GSK-pandemrix vaccines, have suffered numbness while moving hands, legs and tongues. However, it is yet to be proved by independent investigation that the numbness in swine flu patients was a side-effect of GSK-pandemrix vaccines.
Avian Influenza Control Project (AICP) at the Department of Health Services (DoHS) was set to administer pandemrix vaccines to 2.7 million people -- approximately 10 per cent of the total population -- within three months from September. With MoHP´s decision to not import pandemrix vaccines for the time being, AICP´s vaccination drive against swine flu is in a limbo.
WHO has already sent syringes and disposable bags required for administering swine flu vaccines. "The logistic support provided by WHO is of no use at all if GSK-pandemrix vaccines prove to be faulty," Dr Anand Kumar Shrestha, coordinator of AICP, told myrepublica.com.
Influenza-A (H1N1) -- a new flu strain, which was declared a pandemic by WHO in June of 2009 -- is no longer considered to be a global threat. Recently, on August 10, 2010, WHO declared that swine flu, which killed thousands of people in several parts of the world, is now just a seasonal flu, meaning that people can easily resist it.
Irrespective of the new declaration by WHO, AICP had decided to move on with its vaccination drive. "Although swine flu has become a seasonal flu, people still need vaccines," Dr Shrestha said.
According to him, AICP has mainly targeted pregnant women, health workers and people suffering from chronic diseases, among others. "They are in genuine need of vaccines for swine flu," Dr Shrestha told myrepublica.com.
MoHP has considered mainly two aspects while deciding not to immediately import pandemrix vaccines: expenses for storing and disposing of vaccines.
"If we import vaccines right now, we have no proper place to store them for an uncertain period of time," MoHP spokesperson Dr Pathak said. "Storing any vaccines in a suitable temperature is a difficult task."
Similarly, according to Dr Pathak, if WHO says that GSK-pandemrix vaccines are really faulty, MoHP will have to manage an additional fund for disposing of them. "We cannot randomly dump vaccines," he said, adding. "We need more money to safely dispose of the vaccines."