Doctors are being urged to watch for cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare nerve disorder, as the new swine flu vaccine is introduced in October.
By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
Published: 2:38PM BST 16 Aug 2009
Guillain-Barre syndrome which attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis and death is linked to infections like flu but it has also been suggested a previous swine flu vaccine had caused cases of the disease in America in the 1970s.
American officials rushed out a vaccine in 1976 following an outbreak of swine flu in military barracks. Around 40million people received the vaccine but doctors reported an increase Guillain-Barre and 25 people had died before the immunisation programme was stopped.
It is not known for sure whether the vaccine or the flu was responsible and the current H1N1 swine flu jabs due to be introduced in Britain in October are very different to the version used thirty years ago, Government scientists have said.
However specialist doctors here are being urged to report every case of Guillain-Barre syndrome to the Health Protection Agency so the circumstances of each patient can be investigated.
Sources told the Daily Telegraph that experts are not expecting to spot any cases linked to the vaccinations.
They added that because Guillain-Barre can be caused by infections like flu, the new programme may in fact establish that vaccinations actually protect against the syndrome.
The syndrome affects around 1,500 people a year in the Britain.
A Health Protection Agency spokesman said enhanced surveillance was “routine” when introducing a new vaccine and all manner of potential side effects are monitored.
More than 13 million people in Britain, including people with severe asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or with a compromised immune system will get the jab from October. Pregnant women and frontline health and social care workers will also be offered the jab.
The seasonal flu vaccination programme will continue as normal.
The spokesman said: “Guillain-Barre syndrome has long been identified as a potential adverse event that would require enhanced surveillance following the introduction of a pandemic vaccine but there is no evidence to suggest there is an increased risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome from this vaccine.”
He said there was also no increased risk of the syndrome associated with the seasonal flu vaccine.
“Establishing enhanced surveillance on Guillain-Barre syndrome has always been part of our pandemic plan because there is an increased risk of this disease after a flu-like illness.
“HPA is working in collaboration with the Association of British Neurologists Surveillance Unit (BNSU) and the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit (BPSU) who will ask clinicians to report each month whether they have seen any cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.”
However critics have said the fact doctors are being told to report cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome is evidence that the authorities are concerned.
Jackie Fletcher of the campaign group, Jabs, added: “What we’ve got is a massive guinea-pig trial.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “The European Medicines Agency has strict processes in place for licensing pandemic vaccines.
“In preparing for a pandemic, appropriate trials to assess safety and the immune responses have been carried out on vaccines very similar to the swine flu vaccine. The vaccines have been shown to have a good safety profile.<
“It is extremely irresponsible to suggest that the UK would use a vaccine without careful consideration of safety issues. The UK has one of the most successful immunisation programmes in the world.”
We have stocked Tamiflu antiviral at home. Ideally within 6 hours and at the very latest within 48 hours of flu symptoms we will commence Tamiflu treatment. I bought Tamiflu online (£50 per dose) from pimsreg.com registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) and listed in "websites displaying the internet pharmacy logo".
Update 26 July 2009: Tamiflu - currently one dose is free to people exhibiting swine flu symptons - get Tamiflu from the UK Government Pandemic Flu site.
On 1 September my son went down with, what our doctor said 'ticked all the boxes' as swine flu. After 102F, vomiting, diarohea, headaches ... and taking tamiflu (our emergency stock) and on Thursday Relenza, he seems on the mend (4 September 8pm).
Diagram of influenza virus nomenclature (for a Fujian flu virus)
Structure of the influenza virion. The hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) proteins are shown on the surface of the particle. The viral RNAs that make up the genome are shown as red coils inside the particle and bound to Ribonuclear Proteins (RNPs).