Available soon? (Illustration)
Photo: AP
Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Flu fight: Results of H1N1 vaccine trials still weeks away

Worldwide clinical trials for swine flu vaccine are in full swing, but UK specialists say results won't be in for at least six weeks. Health Ministry contracts world's largest vaccine company as supplier

Clinical trials in H1N1 virus vaccine are in full swing worldwide, with the global medical community attempting to ascertain how many doses would be needed to immunity to the disease.


Friday saw Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman sign a NIS 7 million (about $ 1.78 million) preliminary agreement for the purchase of a vaccine against the virus, also known as swine flue.


The deal was singed with the French vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur – the world's largest vaccine company.


"I have reached an agreement with the prime minister and the finance minister Thursday on the deal's financing. This is the first step," said Litzman at a press conference in his office Friday afternoon.


The deputy minister estimated that the vaccine will only become available in the beginning of 2010. "We have done all we can… and we will insist that the drug is approved. I am glad to say we can feel reassured."


According to Litzman, negotiations with other companies on the purchase of an additional amount of the vaccine were ongoing. "We are trying to get about 300,000 vaccines from a certain company, and a similar amount from another company," he said.


Litzman at press conference. 'We can feel reassured' (Photo: Gil Yohanan)


Litzman will travel to the US next week to meet with the American secretary of health in a bid to push forward the date of the vaccine's arrival to Israel.


Israel on waiting list  

The Health Ministry estimated this week that about 700 people will die from swine flu this year. However, Health Ministry Director General Avi Yisraeli stressed at the press conference that, "It should be kept in mind that as far as we know swine flu is usually mild. The public should follow the instructions. Those who are not in the high risk group and who only suffer from ordinary flu should not come to the hospital."


Israel is currently on the waiting list for the vaccine and will start receiving it once mass productions begin. Five people in Israel have died so far from complications associated with the virus. Some 2,000 people have been diagnosed with swine flu, but thousands others are believed to have contracted it as well.


Sanofi Pasteur began human trials of its swine flu vaccine this week in about 2,000 people in the United States, the company said Friday, becoming the third company conducting clinical trials on swine flu vaccines.


Sanofi Pasteur's trials began Thursday, testing both the vaccine's safety and how many doses would be needed to protect people from swine flu, the company said in a statement. Most experts think two doses will be necessary.


Results still weeks away

Meanwhile, the UK's Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) has enrolled 175 people for clinical trials in the vaccine. The tests involves administering two doses of the vaccine, then checking immunity levels.


The results of the trial, which also stand to determine how far apart the doses must be given, should be ready in four to six weeks.


The UK trial is led by Dr. Iain Stephenson, an infectious diseases specialist the LRI, with the first swine flu vaccines expected to be licensed for use in the general population in September.


England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson said it was very difficult to predict when a second wave of the swine flu would hit: "It's guesswork really… We can't be complacent about this, we have to continue planning, we have to be ready for what happens in the autumn." 


פרסום ראשון: 08.07.09, 14:39
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