Tuesday, 11 April 2017
Department of Health
Vaccination Programme Data
610. To ask the Minister for Health the number of doses of pandemrix which were purchased; the number of doses which were used during the swine flu vaccination programme; the position regarding the remainder of those unused vaccines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18168/17]
611. To ask the Minister for Health his views on the decision to purchase the pandemrix vaccine and to facilitate its use post-November 2009, when the Irish Medicines Board was in possession of information which showed that it had a far greater likelihood of serious adverse impacts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18169/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 609 to 611, inclusive, together.
A public health alert was received from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 24 April 2009 indicating that human cases of influenza type A (H1N1) virus infection had been identified in the US and in Mexico. The Department of Health activated the National Plan for pandemic influenza. The plan was accompanied by guidance that had been developed by the Pandemic Influenza Expert Group (PIEG) which was updated regularly during the pandemic. On Thursday, 11 June, following consideration by its Emergency Committee, the WHO raised the Influenza alert phase to Pandemic level 6 which officially declares a pandemic.
Ireland moved from the containment to the mitigation phase on 16 July 2009. The aim of the mitigation strategy was to limit the impact of the virus in the population. This was achieved by a combination of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical measures. Non-pharmaceutical measures included emphasising via media campaigns the importance of personal measures to limit spread, such as isolation if sick, covering mouth with tissues when coughing or sneezing and hygiene measures such as washing hands.
Pharmaceutical measures included treating those at risk of more severe disease with antivirals and vaccinating when the vaccine became available. The HSE had contracts in place for the provision of pandemic vaccine with Baxter for 4.25 million doses and GSK for 3.45 million doses. Approximately 3 million doses of Pandemic vaccine were delivered to Ireland – 600,000 Baxter and 2.4 million GSK.
Based on the advices of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee ‘at risk’ groups were defined and prioritised for vaccination commencing in October 2009. Over 1.1 million pandemic vaccinations were recorded, giving a 25% uptake for the total population. The vaccine uptakes among the priority groups were 50% for those medically at risk, 32% for pregnant women (was 45% during early part of programme), 31% for health care workers, 60% for children aged 6 months to 4 years, 39% for children aged 5-14 years and 25% for those aged 65 years and older. The public pandemic vaccination campaign ended on 31 March 2010. However, following a full assessment of the situation at that time the vaccine continued to be made available free of charge to the “at risk” groups through General Practice and Maternity Units until September 2010.
The first reports concerning a possible link between pandemic influenza vaccination and narcolepsy came to international notice in the second half of 2010. In August 2010, the Swedish pharmacovigilance authority reported that it was investigating six cases of narcolepsy reported by health care professionals as a possible adverse event following the use of Pandemrix vaccine, used during the H1N1 2009 pandemic. This was followed later that month by reports from the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) noting there had been a more than expected number of cases of narcolepsy in children and adolescents that year. The Irish Medicines Board (now the HPRA) received reports of two confirmed cases of narcolepsy following vaccination with pandemic vaccines by the end of March 2011.