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Medsafe spokesman on 2005 Influenza vaccine

Media Release

11 March 2005

2005 Influenza vaccine -- please attribute to Medsafe spokesman Dr Stewart Jessamine

The supply of the 2005 influenza vaccine has been delayed after the vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur (France) informed Medsafe of a potential problem with its effectiveness.

It's important to note that the vaccine is safe and will protect against two of the three stains that are most likely to be in circulation in New Zealand this winter. However, it may not protect some people against the third virus strain, A/Wellington/2004 (H3N2).

Medsafe is urgently seeking further information from Sanofi Pasteur, as well as expert advice from clinicians.

Although the Ministry recommends influenza immunisation as soon as possible, the New Zealand vaccination programme runs until the end of June and the high peak for influenza is normally not until winter. A short delay, while inconvenient, especially for medical professionals planning to deliver the vaccine, should not affect the overall vaccination programme.

Influenza strains that circulate change each year. The World Health Organization selects strains for inclusion in vaccines annually.

The Southern Hemisphere vaccine contains three influenza strains: A/Wellington/2004 (H3N2), A/New Caledonia/1999 (H1N1) and B/Shanghai/2002.

The Ministry of Health's influenza vaccination programme normally starts as soon as the vaccine becomes available in about mid-March.


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