[True classic from Relenza salesman: 'Dr Laver, who
receives royalties from the sale of Relenza.' How's this for
an oxymoron on the useless flu jab: "It is better than nothing and I
wouldn't want to advise people not to take it, but you can't rely on it doing
Notice how he admits it is useless when he isn't selling it anymore. And how come 12,000 die in UK, but 800 in USA? Sounds like the old yearly CDC lie of 35,000 deaths.]
Flu jab inventor warns of killer epidemic - but claims his vaccine could be powerless to stop it
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=496095&in_page_id=1770Last updated at 20:57pm on 23rd November 2007
Flu could claim tens of thousands of lives this winter and vaccine will do little to stop it, warns the jab's inventor.
Dr Graeme Laver believes an exceptionally-severe outbreak is likely.
And although 15 million Britons a year receive the flu jab, he says it does not guarantee protection.
Drugs which fight the virus once it has struck, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, must be made available over the counter, he insists.
Highlighting flaws in the vaccine which he co-developed more than 40 years ago, Australian Dr Laver said: "I have never been very impressed with its efficacy.
"It is better than nothing and I wouldn't want to advise people not to take it, but you can't rely on it doing any good."
Dr Laver said the best way to protect public health was to make Tamiflu and Relenza readily available to all who need them.
Currently available only on prescription, the flu medicines are most effective if taken soon after the onset of symptoms, meaning valuable time is likely to be lost if patients have to wait for a doctor's appointment.
Sold over the counter in pharmacies, they could save hundreds of lives, said Dr Laver.
Influenza claims 12,000 lives a year in the UK, but in severe outbreaks the number can rise to 20,000. Dr Laver warned that outbreaks tend to follow a pattern, with an extra-bad flu season in Australia this year likely to be a portent of problems in the UK.
The former professor of biochemistry at the Australian National University in Canberra said: "If the seasonal flu is as bad as it was in Australia, you are in for a pretty bad time.
"You could have a really severe epidemic. Thousands will be ill and many will die. Doesn't anyone care? The safe and effective anti-flu drugs could, if used correctly, avoid much of this distress."
Three times as many Australians caught flu this year as last, with even fit young adults badly affected. New South Wales alone saw more than 800 deaths from pneumonia, a common complication of flu, in just five weeks in June and July.
Experts speculated that several winters of mild flu outbreaks had left the population with little immunity to the bug.
Britain has also had fewer cases of flu than usual in recent years, meaning millions are vulnerable to infection.
Dr Laver, who receives royalties from the sale of Relenza but not the betterselling Tamiflu, said many children died in this year's Australian outbreak.
"In a true example of what happened, a lady in Adelaide experienced flu symptoms on a Monday and was sent home from work. She took paracetamol, went to bed, and was dead by Tuesday evening.
"If that unfortunate lady had taken Tamiflu, instead of paracetamol, she might still be alive today. But almost certainly she knew nothing of Tamiflu, and even if she had, she would never have been able to get it quickly enough to save her. That's not good enough."
Only New Zealand makes Tamiflu available over the counter. In the UK, restrictions on the prescription of the drugs are eased slightly during severe outbreaks but their use is still limited.
The drug safety watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said it was up to drug manufacturers to approach it about changes in how their products are sold.
A spokesman added that large-scale safety tests would be needed before a drug was downgraded from prescription only to over-the-counter sale.
Other scientists remain adamant that the flu jab is effective. Britain's leading expert, Professor John Oxford, said: "Huge clinical trials have shown that not only are there fewer deaths from respiratory conditions among the vaccinated, there are fewer deaths from heart attack and stroke.
"The vaccine scores positively all the time, however you look at it.
"We do not want anything to put people off being vaccinated."