Schools swine flu verdict awaited

Private kindergartens became the first schools to open yesterday, as authorities continue to mull over whether the opening of primary and secondary schools should be delayed because of the swine flu outbreak. State-run kindergartens are also due to open as planned on September 1 but the government has yet to decide whether schools for older children, which are due to open on September 11, should also welcome back pupils without delay. A scientific advisory council last week proposed to the government that all schools open as normal, mirroring advice in other countries. «It was right for kindergartens to open today and schools should operate as normal too,» Dimitris Kafetzis, a pediatrics professor and director of the Pediatric Clinic at the Aglaia Kyriakou Children’s Hospital, told Kathimerini. «There is no doubt that excessive fear causes more harm than any flu. «The state must operate as normal, as long as all of us, especially teachers and pupils, obey the rules of personal hygiene.» Kafetzis also played down fears about the safety of the swine flu vaccine that is to be administered to all Greeks later this year. Concern was heightened after reports yesterday revealed that Britain’s Health Protection Agency has asked doctors to check for increases in a brain disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) once the country’s vaccination program begins. Its letter refers to the use of a swine flu vaccine in the United States in 1976, when 25 people died from GBS, while just one died from swine flu. «We all have to understand that there is no medicine, no vaccine without side effects,» said the professor. «The issue is always that the pros of a drug should outweigh the cons.»