Posted by: kenwbudd | January 27, 2010

Poland Vindicated by not using H1N1 vaccine?

Poland Vindicated by not using H1N1 vaccine? – Washington Times

The decision seemed fraught with risk: a government refusing to import swine flu vaccines amid worldwide warnings of a spreading epidemic.

But Poland did just that, becoming the only country worldwide known to reject the vaccines over safety fears and distrust in the drug companies producing them — concerns international health experts reject as unfounded.

Now that the current outbreak appears to have peaked in much of Europe, many Poles say their government has been vindicated: Countries with large stockpiles often saw low public interest in the vaccines and face financial loss from unused doses set to expire. Poland’s government didn’t spend a cent fighting the epidemic.

All along, the decision by Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Health Minister Ewa Kopacz met with broad support. Even with 145 swine flu deaths in Poland to date, many Poles view the rejection of the vaccines as a laudable gesture of defiance against pharmaceutical companies, sentiment shaped by a strengthening anti-vaccine movement and conspiracy theories about the vaccines circulating on the Internet.

“I had the impression that the information about swine flu was manipulated in order to create a panic,” said Barbara Lazniewska, a 38-year-old architect who was among the many Poles to applaud the government’s stance.

Poles take pride in having a strong independent streak, and many respect the government for defying the European Union, the World Health Organization and other international groups that urged countries to implement vaccination programs — advice that smacked to some of meddling in internal affairs.

The prime minister described Poland as a country with the rare “courage” to refuse a vaccine that he said has not undergone sufficient testing.

“We are making this decision only in the interest of the Polish patient and the taxpayer,” Mr. Tusk insisted in December. “We will not take part because it’s not honest and it’s not safe for the patient.”

The anti-vaccine movement argues that the vaccine is untested or contains risky ingredients, such as the preservative thimerosal. However, there is little difference in the formulation for the swine flu vaccine and that of the regular flu vaccine, which is available in Poland, and all evidence so far suggests it is safe and effective. WHO says more than 150 million people have been vaccinated in more than 40 countries and no unusual or dangerous side effects have been seen.

“The saving grace for Poland is that this swine flu pandemic is so far very mild. It would be a big scandal if this were a virus that would cause many deaths,” said Dr. Andrew McMichael, an immunologist and the director of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford University.

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