Efforts by Britain and several other European countries to inoculate all their citizens against swine flu before winter are raising safety fears.
Vaccines are usually tested on hundreds of people for weeks or months to ensure that the dose is enough to prompt the immune system to produce sufficient antibodies.
But the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) is allowing companies to skip testing in large numbers to make sure that the vaccine is available as soon as possible.
Greece, France and Sweden are among others that have said that they will start using the vaccine as soon as it is approved by the EMA.
This despite warnings from Dr Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organisation’s flu chief, of the potential dangers of untested vaccines.
He says: “One of the things which cannot be compromised is the safety of vaccines. There are certain areas where you can make economies, perhaps, but certain areas where you simply do not try to make any economies.”
But says EMA spokesman Martin Harvey-Allchurch: “Everybody is doing the best they can in a situation that is far from ideal. With the winter flu season approaching, we need to make sure the vaccine is available.”
Copyright Press Association 2009