Last updated: January 14, 2010

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Swine flu 'a false pandemic' to sell vaccines, expert says

Swine flu vaccine

A lab worker prepares swine flu vaccine Source: AP

  • Swine flu a "false pandemic", expert says
  • "Scare was amplified to sell vaccines"
  • Top health official rejects scare claims

CLAIMS swine flu is a "false pandemic" and "a campaign of panic" being used to create a huge market for vaccines are "historically and medically inaccurate", Australia's top medical official says.

Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, has claimed major firms organised a "campaign of panic" to put pressure on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare a pandemic, UK tabloid The Sun reports.

Dr Wodarg is calling for an inquiry into what he calls a "medical scandal".

However Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, today strongly rejected the accusations.

"The recognition and declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organiaation occurred in response to cases and deaths in Mexico and the USA not because of drug companies input or influence," Prof Bishop said.

Prof Bishop also refuted claims by Dr  Wodarg that swine flu:  "Was a normal kind of flu. It does not cause a tenth of deaths caused by the classic seasonal flu."

"Swine flu is similar to ordinary flu but with some dangerous differences," Prof Bishop said.

"Swine flu affected a much younger age group.

"The median age of all Australian hospitalisations from swine flu was just 31 years.

"The median age of Intensive Care Units (ICU) admissions was 40 years and the media age of deaths in Australia was 48 years.

"This is 35 years younger than the median age of death from standard winter flu in Australia is 83 years.

"We also saw a sharp increase in the number of people, particualrly younger people who had to be admitted to ICUs."

In an interview with France's L'Humanite on Sunday, Dr Wodarg also raised concerns about the swift release of swine flu vaccines.

"The vaccines were developed too quickly. Some ingredients were insufficiently tested," Dr  Wodarg said.

"The development of a swine flu vaccine was not rushed," Prof Bishop said in reply.

"In Australia the vaccine has gone through a rigorous safety assessment by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

"The safety profile of the Australian CSL vaccine is very well established from clinical trials and world wide use with millions of doses being safely administered."

The Federal Government has purchased 21 million doses of swine flu vaccine.

The Department of Health and Ageing is encouraging everyone from 6 months upwards to be vaccinated free of charge before swine flu comes back next year.

The WHO recently reaffirmed its stance that the pandemic is not over.

However, the number of swine flu deaths is dramatically lower than expected.

To read more go to The Sun

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