Nothing wrong with eggs, flu vaccine: manufacturer

IMAGE PROBLEM: Amid rising fears about the safety of the swine flu vaccine, the premier called on the DOH to work on increasing public confidence in the product


Fri, Dec 25, 2009 - Page 2

Vaccine manufacturer Adimmune Corp yesterday said that there were no problems with the quality of the eggs used to produce its A(H1N1) vaccine amid suspicions that contaminated eggs may have been responsible for severe side effects suffered by some who received the vaccine.

Adimmune president Ignatius Wei (魏逸之) said the eggs were supplied by two chicken farms that met specifications. The farms were inspected twice by the Department of Health’s (DOH) Bureau of Food and Drug Analysis and passed inspection on both occasions, he said.

The eggs produced by the farms passed all nine required tests, including salmonella levels, avian flu infection and antibiotic residues, Wei said.

He said that before the immunization program was launched, about 30 people had died from the swine flu strain, but the fatalities had since dropped significantly thanks to the vaccine.

Wei said the company had produced more than 40 batches of vaccine, each using 130,000 eggs, adding that the number of cases of side effects would have been higher if there had been problems with the eggs or packaging.

DOH statistics showed that since the start of the immunization program last month, 424 of the 4.81 million people who have been vaccinated have developed serious side effects.

This included a seven-year-old boy who died on Monday after being vaccinated last month.

With doubts about the safety of the vaccine mounting, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) asked the DOH yesterday to make public the origin of the eggs used to produce the vaccine and the results of the tests on the eggs.

However, head of the Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs, Kang Jaw-jou (康照洲), said that before doing so, the department would need to determine whether it could legally make the information public, as the egg farms are under the supervision of the Council of Agriculture, not the DOH.

Meanwhile, Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) said yesterday that the department would consider making survey forms available to people who have received the H1N1 flu vaccine as a means of tracking side effects or any other problems.

Yaung told the legislature that the agency would ask people who have been vaccinated to provide information that would give health authorities a better understanding of the problems related to the immunization program.

Yaung made the suggestion in response to DPP Legislator Huang Sue-ying’s (黃淑英) criticism of DOH officials’ “bad attitude” in immediately denying that symptoms, side effects and even a death had anything to do with the H1N1 vaccination.”

Yaung said the DOH would set up a special task force of experts from the medical and legal fields to address controversies related to inoculation complaints.

In related news, Centers for Disease Control Director-General Steve Kuo (郭旭崧) said yesterday that pregnant women should consult their obstetricians before receiving the vaccine.

He made the statement after four cases involving pregnant women were reported. Two of the women had stillbirths and two had miscarriages after receiving the vaccine.

At a separate setting, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) requested that the DOH raise public confidence in the vaccine’s safety to reduce the possibility that people would either choose not to receive, or delay getting, the H1N1 vaccine, which could lead to spread of the flu.

“The transmission of the flu has slowed recently, as shown by a decline in several indicators, but we should not lower our guard against a possible outbreak,” Government Information Office Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) quoted Wu as saying at the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday.