NEWS

Millions of flu jab orders canceled

Health and Social Policy Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou yesterday said she was in talks with pharmaceutical firms aimed at canceling 8 million doses of the swine flu vaccine, described by the minister as a surplus for which she blamed the previous conservative government. Xenogiannakopoulou said that a total of 16 million doses of the vaccine had been requested in two separate orders made by the previous government. The first 8 million of these doses had been destined for vulnerable citizens and health sector workers. But the second order, according to the minister, was a pre-election tactic by former Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis who allegedly feared how the public would react when the first cases of the H1N1 virus hit Greece. Karamanlis had declared that authorities would order enough vaccines to ensure that every single citizen has two doses reserved for him or her. Sources at the ministry told Kathimerini that the government has already sent an advance payment to the pharmaceutical firms, which covers the cost of the some 3.6 million doses of the vaccine that Greece has received already. Meanwhile, the ministry’s statistics indicate that citizens remain skeptical about taking the swine flu vaccine more than a month after a government inoculation drive, with only 319,188 people having received the jab. There have been no reports of any serious side effects being suffered by those who had the shot. Xenogiannakopoulou, who herself was inoculated on the first day of the government’s inoculation drive in a bid to set an example for the general public, yesterday appealed to citizens to get the jab. «The risk of swine flu has not gone away. The vaccine is a sensible and valuable choice for the future,» she said. The minister added that another 60 beds were being made available in the intensive-care units of state hospitals for serious swine flu cases. Giorgos Saroglou, a spokesman for the Center for Infectious Diseases Control (KEEL), said yesterday that the first wave of the swine flu epidemic had already peaked in Greece and that the next wave is expected in February.