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WHO halts use of Euvax B vaccine for hepatitis B

Update: May, 22/2007 - 00:00
HA NOI (VNS)— The World Health Organisation (WHO) suspended the use of a hepatitis B vaccine that recently resulted in the death of three new-born babies in Viet Nam.

WHO has suspended the use of the Euvax B vaccine across the world, after the three deaths, which occurred between April 23 and May 7. The vaccine was also thought to be responsible for another new-born baby becoming seriously ill after vaccination in Viet Nam, according to Nguyen Tran Hien, head of a government group investigating the cases.

The group includes representatives from the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE), the Expanded Programme for Immunisation, the National Hospital of Paediatrics, WHO and the United Nations' Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Speaking at the group's first meeting on Friday, Hien said the Euvax B hepatitis B vaccine, produced by Korea's LG company, was used in 24 countries across the world, including Viet Nam.

However, the vaccine was imported into Viet Nam without any verification, according to director of the National Institute for Vaccine and Medical Bio-product Verification, Le Van Phung.

Under Health Ministry regulations, imported vaccines must be on a list of products recommended for use by WHO. In addition, the vaccine must be used in the country of production and in three other developing countries.

Phung said Euvax was classed as an aid product and recommended by WHO, therefore imports to Viet Nam were not verified at all.

It was only sincethe first death related to the Priorix vaccine in HCM City in May 2006, that all kinds of vaccines, including Euvax, have been more strictly controlled.

Of the two batches of the vaccine related to the three recent deaths, one was not verified when it was imported into Viet Nam, said Phung.

Director of the Vaccine and Medical Bio-product Company, Nguyen Thu Van, said her company could completely satisfy the local demand for hepatitis B vaccines. However, the vaccine takes between three to four months to produce.

"We will produce the hepatitis B vaccine when we receive a proposal from the Ministry of Health," said Van.

"It will take about five or six months to produce between five to six million doses of hepatitis B vaccine to cater to domestic demand." — VNS

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