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Pandemic vaccines from four manufacturers are now available for use within the European Union (EU). Use of these vaccines will protect individuals and reduce the impact on health services to more manageable levels. The majority of the severely ill will be from known risk groups and the best strategy will be to start vaccinating in line with the recommendation from the European Union Health Security Committee prioritising adults and children with chronic conditions, pregnant women and healthcare workers. The composition of authorised vaccines is reviewed in this article. The vaccine strain in all authorised pandemic vaccines worldwide is based on the same initial isolate of influenza A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)v but the vaccines differ in conditions for virus propagation, antigen preparation, antigen content and whether they are adjuvanted or not. The vaccines are likely to be effective since no significant genetic or antigenic drift has occurred and there are already mechanisms for estimating clinical effectiveness. Influenza vaccines have good safety records and no safety concerns have so far been encountered with any of the vaccines developed. However, special mechanisms have been devised for the early detection and rigorous investigation of possible significant side effects in Europe through post-marketing surveillance and analysis. Delivery of the vaccines to the risk groups will pose difficulties where those with chronic illnesses are not readily identifiable to the healthcare services. There is considerable scope for European added value through Member States with excess vaccines making them available to other states.


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