Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Japan to Vaccinate Medical Workers Against Bird Flu

This next article is concerning in that vaccinations my lead to more problems.

TOKYO (Reuters) Apr 15 - Japan plans to vaccinate 6,000 medical workers and quarantine officers with stockpiled bird flu vaccines to check their effectiveness and possible side effects, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The plan, which follows suggestions made by some lawmakers and experts that vaccinations take place before a feared flu pandemic, will be submitted to a panel of experts for approval on Wednesday, an official said.

If approved, vaccination will take place before the end of the fiscal year in March 2009, and mark the first instance in the world in which the vaccines -- based on strains of the H5N1 virus from China and Indonesia -- have been given to such a large group of people prior to a possible pandemic.

Japan has stockpiled vaccines for 10 million people using strains of the H5N1 virus from China, Indonesia and Vietnam. So far the government's stance has been to use them only after a breakout.

If the first vaccination is deemed effective, the ministry will consider vaccinating an additional 10 million people, mainly those involved in maintaining social infrastructure such as gas and electricity networks, the official said.

The government estimates that in a case of a H5N1pandemic, a quarter of the population could be infected with the virus and that up to 640,000 people would die.

The stockpiled vaccines have already been approved in Japan and have been produced by the Research Foundation for Microbial Diseases of Osaka University and the Kitasato Institute, the ministry said.

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