Government considers selling swine flu vaccine stocks

The Portuguese government is considering, in line with other European countries, selling part of its vaccine stock against the A (H1N1) flu virus as the number of new cases diminishes.

Last week, the Director-General of Health Francisco George admitted that the peak number of swine flu cases may already have been reached as the number of new cases has fallen back to October levels.

In November, the number of new cases had begun to increase sharply, reaching a peak between November 16 and 29, when 28,000 people were registered with flu symptoms that week.

Since the beginning of December, however, figures have begun a steady decline, with 4,811 patients exhibiting flu-like symptoms in the last week of that month.

Since the government started its nationwide vaccination campaign with the controversial vaccine Pandemrix over two months ago, around 320,000 people in Portugal have been vaccinated against the virus and last week Francisco George said that the vaccination programme would be widened to include those who had not yet been immunised.

Deputy-Director of Health Graça Freitas warned: “Even though new incidences of flu seem to be diminishing, the virus could well reappear in force later this winter or next year in.”

Voices have been raised recently in the European Parliament that the virulence of the virus had been deliberately whipped up by lobby groups with financial vested interests in selling the A (H1N1) vaccine to governments, which have now been left with vast stockpiles of vaccine on their hands and may consider selling them off to other countries.

So far, 81 people have died in Portugal as a result of the virus.