Vaccine: given to 1.1m people

MORE than 1,600 people reported adverse reactions to the swine flu vaccine, including two people who subsequently died from underlying conditions. No evidence of a link between the vaccine and their deaths emerged in either case, and both involved patients with existing chronic illnesses.

The findings are contained in the final public update of the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) on the vaccination programme from last year which details a total of 1,607 "suspected adverse reactions".

Fifteen people suffered an "anaphylactic"-type reaction to either of the two vaccines, while hundreds of others suffered more minor effects.

A total of 1,128 adverse reactions were reported for the Pandemrix vaccine, which was most commonly used during the massive immunisation drive. The most frequently reported difficulties were injection-site reactions, stomach upsets, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, fainting and limb weakness.

A total of 67 allergic-reaction reports were received, including seven that were considered of an "anaphylactic" type, which would be deemed more serious. "Some of the allergic reactions occurred in patients without a history of anaphylactic reaction or known drug/food allergies," said the IMB.

The board also made note of a case of an elderly patient, who died nine days after receiving a vaccination.

It said: "The patient had a history of respiratory problems. Further information is awaited. There is no evidence of a causal relationship between vaccination and the patient's death."

There were four reports of facial palsy, including three cases of Bell's Palsy. Thirteen reports of seizures were reported.

The IMB also said there was a report of adverse reactions from 20 pregnant women. One of the women suffered "spontaneous abortion", although she had a history of recurrent miscarriage and no evidence linking the latest incident to the vaccine was found.

Another 479 adverse-reaction reports were listed for Celvapan, a second vaccine, which was much less frequently used during the swine flu panic.

They included 51 reports of allergic reaction and eight "anaphylactic-type reactions".

The IMB also noted the death of a patient 10 days after vaccination. It said: "The patient had a number of underlying conditions including severe cardiac disease and insulin-dependent diabetes. There is no evidence of a causal relationship."

One of the vaccines was administered to an estimated 1.1 million people at the height of the scare over swine flu late last year.

The "epidemic" claimed the lives of 24 people in an eight-month period when more than 200 people are believed to have succumbed to ordinary seasonal flu and its complications.