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Swine flu vaccines discarded

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 23 – The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that scientists have discarded a first set of vaccines that had been developed for the prevention of H1N1 influenza virus commonly known as swine flu.

WHO Country Director Dr David Okello said on Friday that this was because of the dilemma there was a possibility of the highly contagious virus mutating into a more severe form.

“The scientists have moved to the second level because of the dilemma we are all facing,” Dr Okello said.

He said if the virus mutated, the people who are developing the vaccine would have to advance their technologies to address the problem.

“There will be a continuous re-checking of the vaccines even after development. Probably we will get a first phase of the vaccine and then a second phase and so on depending on the nature of the virus,” the WHO representative said.

He said the international health body was working closely with the manufacturers and expects the issue of mutation to be addressed.

He assured that Kenya was on the priority list to access the vaccine once it was available and clarified that the vaccine was yet to be released contrary to reports in a section of the press that a vaccine was already in the country.

Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said she had requested for an extra allocation of Sh270 million from Treasury to deal with the disease in case it became more aggressive.

“We have prepared a Cabinet paper and we hope the government will respond to our request because it is a need and we must be prepared for worse times to come. We cannot say exactly how much we will get at this time but we have requested for those finances,” she said.

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They were addressing a press conference where the Minister also said Kenya was set to host yet another major international conference on health promotion in  the coming week.

She said this was the first time the 7th Global Conference on Health would be held in the African continent.

Mrs Mugo said the Nairobi conference would discuss ways to seal the gaps in implementation of evidence based health promotion and weak health promotion capacity.

“The Health Ministries, WHO country office and the other stakeholders are working on a document that will provide direction for Kenya in bridging the implementation gap in health promotion,” the Minister said.

“This document will be part of the global call to action that will be discussed at the conference,” she added.

The Minister said the conference which comes at a time when the world is grappling with major health threats like the H1N1 Influenza pandemic and cholera outbreaks in Kenya would be graced by President Mwai Kibaki.

WHO Coordinator of Health Promotion Dr Gauden Galea said although a lot of understanding on how to reduce major health problems had been gained from previous meetings, there was need to implement the decisions that had been made.

“The problem that we are seeing is that not enough has been gained. We have Millennium Development Goals that we are struggling to attain but the lack of implementation of these basic areas of action results in a score card that is quite low,” he said.

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