Abu Dhabi: If no symptoms appear within the first six to eight weeks of taking the H1N1 vaccination, the individual is most likely to be symptom-free from the vaccine, assured a special advisor to the Director General on Pandemic Influenza.

There are at least 27 pharmaceutical manufacturing companies working on pandemic vaccines and over 150 million doses have been distributed in about 40 countries by the end of November 2009.

There are also 179 million doses pledged by 11 countries and seven manufacturers, which has evidently increased public concern regarding the H1N1 vaccine reliability and poses new challenges for the UAE health ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

To clarify matters with the UAE residents regarding H1N1, a press conference was held yesterday, where Dr Keiji Fukuda — special advisor to the Director General on Pandemic Influenza from the World Health Organisation (WHO) — was invited by the National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) and the UAE health ministry to speak about the continuing growth of the H1N1 influenza and its new challenges and concerns.

False information

"Some rumours and false information indicate that the vaccine may cause paralysis in the long run. The peak period for a possible paralysis to arise is between four to six weeks of taking the vaccine and for the rest of the symptoms from six to eight weeks and so far we haven't detected any serious symptoms among individuals vaccinated," Fukuda said.

"The levels of watchfulness for H1N1 are much higher now in comparison to other Influenza like symptoms that broke out in the past. If and when an individual shows symptoms from a vaccine, immediate action is taken," said Fukuda, who assured that the experience of an H1N1 vaccine to date has been efficient, stressing that people should start getting vaccinated."

He said the UAE health ministry has purchased a certain quota of H1N1 vaccines. "The first batch of 40,000 units has arrived and the second batch is arriving shortly. We are holding meetings at the national committee for H1N1 with regards to when we will start to vaccinate the public and will release the exact date shortly," Dr Mahmoud Fikri, CEO for health policies and Head of the National Scientific Committee for H1N1, told the media.

The H1N1 pandemic is treatable with early detection and by taking tamiflu and related medications on time. "So far we have experienced a very good response ...," said Dr Fikri.

Pandemics in general, according to Fukuda, can change and become milder or worse.

History: For the record

A new virus spreads easily from person to person through droplets and secretions on unwashed hands.

The following Influenza pandemics have been recorded in the past:

- 1918 - Spanish Flu (40-50 million deaths)

- 1957 - Asian Flu (1-4 million deaths)

- 1968 - Hong Kong Flu (1 million deaths)

Have you taken the vaccination? Have you had symptoms of the H1N1 virus? Was it treated properly?