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€35m saved in HSE deal on swine flu jabs

The HSE has saved €35m by successfully renegotiating their contract with suppliers of the swine flu vaccine.

Late last year, it was reported that two doses of the vaccine were needed in order to be successfully protected from the flu.

However, when it was finally confirmed in December that just one dose of the Pandemerix vaccine would suffice in protecting against the virus, the HSE successfully renegotiated its contract worth €8.8m with its supplier.

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) said pandemic Level 6 was reached in June 2009, contracts were in place for Ireland to receive 7.7m doses of the vaccine.

But as the pandemic is slowing, and controversy has begun to surround the WHO's labelling of the flu as a pandemic, the Irish government has successfully avoided acquiring a surplus of products.

If the contract had not been renegotiated, Ireland would have followed in the footsteps of a number of other countries, that have been forced to sell their surplus supplies.



Model

The HSE confirmed it had renegotiated deliveries of supplies of Celvapan vaccine in effect from December 31.

This means that the HSE will now not be taking 3.7m doses that it had originally ordered, resulting in a saving of between €25m and €35m.

Senator Liam Twomey said that health officials used Australia -- where it was winter time during the flu's initial outbreak in June -- as a model to predict how Ireland would be affected.

"We expected intensive care units throughout the country to be at maximum on Christmas Day. This was based on the pattern that emerged in Australia.

"Fortunately, though, the virus appears to have weakened. Due to the fact that high risk groups were vaccinated first, the spread has been minimal," he said.

Senator Twomey is now calling for a public debate to take place discussing the controversial suggestion that pharmaceutical companies were pushing the WHO to label swine flu a pandemic in order to maximise vaccination sales.

Approximately 700,000 people in Ireland have received the vaccine so far. The HSE's vaccination clinics remain open and the schools vaccination programme will continue.

cmcbride@herald.ie


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