First vaccine for bird flu is approved

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – It’s better than nothing, federal health advisers said Tuesday in urging approval of the first bird-flu vaccine as a stopgap against a potential pandemic until more effective vaccines can be developed. The panel said in a 14-0 vote that the vaccine was effective, despite evidence it wouldn’t protect most people against the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. The panel then voted that it was safe. “I hope we never have to use it,” said panel member Dr. Melinda Wharton, deputy director of the national immunization program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But this is the vaccine we have now.” The votes came after Food and Drug Administration officials said the Sanofi Aventis SA vaccine could play an important role in protecting against a pandemic, considered ever more likely, despite its limited effectiveness. The government plans to buy and stockpile enough bird-flu vaccine for 20 million people, including emergency and health care workers. The Sanofi vaccine wouldn’t be sold commercially. Dr. Jack Stapleton of the University of Iowa Hospital Clinic called the vaccine “better than nothing.” Fellow panelist Robert Webster of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., likened the vaccine to a child’s first step – “very tentative and very necessary to do” – before adding, “There is a long way to go.”last_img read more