WASHINGTON - Independent health advisers will begin monitoring safety of the swine flu vaccine today, an extra step the government promised in this year’s unprecedented program to watch for possible side effects.
Decades of safe influenza inoculations mean specialists are not expecting problems with the swine flu vaccine, because it is made the same way as the regular winter flu vaccine. But systems to track the health of millions of Americans are being tapped to make sure - to spot any rare but real problems quickly, and to explain the inevitable false alarms when common disorders coincide with inoculation.
US health officials have spotted no concerns to date, said Dr. Bruce Gellin, head of the National Vaccine Program Office.
A specially appointed working group of independent experts will track the vaccine’s safety, too. Although the group will deliberate in private meetings, starting today, its charge is to raise a red flag if members feel the feds miss anything.
“Given the rapidity with which this particular vaccine was rolled out, there seems to be an extra-special obligation to make sure things remain as uncomplicated as they have in the past," said Dr. Marie McCormick of the Harvard School of Public Health, who chairs the working group.