Swine flu vaccine not ready for months says World Health Organisation

The head of the World Health Organisation, Dr Margaret Chan, has cast doubt on the labour Government’s claims that a reliable swine flu vaccine will be available to the public by next month.

Dr Chan said that it would be several months before a safe vaccine was in mass production.

“There’s no vaccine. One should be available soon, in August. But having a vaccine available is not the same as having a vaccine that has been proven safe,” she said in an interview with The Guardian.

Her words appear to undermine assertions made by Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, that the first vaccines will be ready for use by August, by when it is predicted there could be as many as 100,000 new cases a day in Britain.

Meanwhile, the number of deaths from swine flu in Britain may already be higher than the 16 officially caused by the disease, experts have warned.

Up to one in 200 patients who develop serious swine flu symptoms could die from the disease, they said.

But the official tally of deaths may be an underestimate due to difficulties in assessing causes of death, said the team at Imperial College London.

Prof Azra Ghani said: “For example, we know that flu causes a lot of cases of pneumonia. The cause of death could be recorded just pneumonia and we won’t known of it was pneumonia or pneumonia caused by swine flu.”

The Daily Telegraph can also disclose that tourists and school parties from abroad are cancelling trips to Britain because of fears that it is a global hot spot for swine flu.

There is concern among tourism chiefs over the potential impact on the economy caused by the virus after the first signs emerged that visitors from Europe and the south east Asia are refusing to travel to the country.

Britain has more confirmed cases of the disease that any other country in Europe and is the fourth worst hit nation in the world.

Two conferences at Cambridge University were recently cancelled because of health concerns and it is understood that a small number of schools in Europe have also pulled out of exchange trips and summer schools.

Nearly 10,000 Britons have been confirmed as suffering from the virus, and 16 deaths are linked to it, including that of six-year-old Chloe Buckley last week.

Visit Britain, the country’s marketing agency, said that an official survey was under way to analyse the effect of any potential downturn in the numbers of visitors.

Dr Oliver Pybus, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford University, said that London will already have developed its own mutated strain of swine flu due to the number of infections. (See yesterday’s Health Direct post: Swine flu virus has mutated in London, scientists warn 15 Jul 2009- London has already developed its own mutated strain of swine flu, scientists warned.)

Earlier this month Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, warned that up to 100,000 people a day could become infected with the virus by the end of August, although he has appealed for calm and insisted that most people will develop only mild symptoms.


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