Sunday, July 12

Update to last night's British vaccination post including cautions about news reports on swine flu mutations

Pardon the redundancy but I consider the New Scientist article (see below) and my cautions important enough that here I'm separately publishing the update to last night's post; this is for readers who already saw last night's version.

In [last night's post] I mention a letter leaked to the press about the vaccine situation for Scotland, news of which was published July 8. There was another leak, first reported on July 10 and reported today at U.K.'s First Post under the somewhat lurid headline:
Swine flu: NHS ‘muddle’ as London on brink of epidemic

A leaked NHS memo criticises emergency swine flu planning while the Chief Medical Officer says London is almost in an H1N1 epidemic

A leaked memo has revealed that senior NHS [National Health Service] officials consider emergency plans to combat the swine flu pandemic in Britain are muddled and pointless.


The memo, which was sent by an NHS trust executive and leaked to the Times, criticises the government's "muddled thinking" on emergency planning, including the setting up of a national diagnosis phone line, which is yet to materialise - forcing NHS trusts to set up their own.

It goes without saying that the memo would have factored into the British government's decision to announce a fast-tracked vaccination program.

I also asked whether Britain's planned fast-tracking would extend throughout the European Union. I have found this report at Xinhua from July 6 titled EU to develop common strategy. The EU statement sounds vague:
[...] It pointed out that the cooperation will encompass different measures regarding vaccines, antiviral drugs and other public health measures. In this context, it is important to develop strategies to protect people in different risk groups.
So I don't believe it's yet known whether the rest of the EU nations will coordinate a fast-tracked vaccination program

If you read the entire First Post news report, you'll note it mentions three "ominous" developments with regard to the swine flu virus, as reported in the New Scientist. The second item is about a "mutation" found in Shanghai. But when you go to the New Scientist report, the discovery refers to a "mutation to the virus's polymerase enzyme, which makes it replicate more efficiently ..."

So here we are again, driving through pea-soup fog. At these times it helps to remember John Batchelor's oft-repeated dictum that in war the first three reports are always wrong.

This virus, as with any virus, is undergoing slight alterations all the time. Is the Shanghai discovery a "significant" mutation, or is it even a mutation in the technical sense? I am not qualified to pronounce on these questions, and I doubt the First Post reporter is, either.

See the June 26 update to my post on the Brazilian (Sao Paulo) swine flu mutation for the meaning of a "significant" mutation.

We have no choice but to await further developments because the New Scientist article does not provide a source for the information on the Shanghai discovery. This caused a correspondent to snap, "I want three independent confirmations" when I sent him the report.

Of more immediate concern is the New Scientist mention that the swine flu virus seems to be pushing out the seasonal influenza strain in a number of countries; if that turns out to be true, and the trend continues and expands globally, the vaccine for the seasonal flu won't be much help, if any. I suggest you read the entire report, which isn't lengthy, for more detail on this angle.

But again, take the discussion with a grain of salt. The winter influenza season is just gearing up in the southern hemisphere, and it's wound down in the northern one. So of course, right at this moment, there would not be that many 'regular' influenza cases.

Again, we have no choice but to wait on developments. We are in the early days of what could be a long war. Steady on.

1 comment:

DocJim said...

1) The winter flu season in the northern hemisphere did not wind down this year. It is continuing through the summertime and a similar pattern was seen with the old 1918 Spanish flu. That is not to say that it is not less than it will be in the fall, but there are lots of Type A influenza cases occurring this summer in the USA and the UK. It is VERY unusual. The SECOND WAVE will come in the fall.

2) Dr. Edwin Kilbourne, emeritus at NY Medical College, was the person most responsible for selling the idea of the 1976 swine flu vaccine. (May symposium at NY Academy of Sciences) He says we simply didn't realize that 1 in 100,000 people vaccinated would develop Guillian-Barre syndrome. Data had not been put together to notice such a rare event and link it to vaccinations until 1976. If the USA vaccinates the population of 300,000,000, there "should be" about 3,000 cases of Guillian-Barre. Some of those will die. IF we do NOT vaccinate, then with an attack rate of 20% and 1% death rate, 600,000 people in the USA will die of swine flu. These numbers won't be perfect, as not everyone will take the vaccine. It doesn't look very good anyway you run the numbers. By the way, these should be called dead customers for the global business world. That kind of talk makes sense to the finance people and money talks.

3) The change in the polymerase and predicting anything from any scientist is like asking economists in 2006 what 2009 would be like. We must wait and see. I am worried about this "more efficient" polymerase change. That could make the viral load much higher and lead to more pneumonia and death--but it may not ;)