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H1N1 vaccine harmless, WHO expert says
The vaccine for the H1N1 virus is safe and clinical trials have shown there are no side effects, said a WHO (World Health Organisation) expert.

Dr Zuheir Hallaj, special adviser on communicable diseases at WHO, said it was strange that people were apprehensive about the vaccine and advised them to seek information from the right sources, such as the WHO. He said he was not sure who was spreading the false rumours.

"Nearly 100,000 people have been given the vaccine in China and there have been no adverse reports," said Dr Hallaj.

Websites have come up advising people not to take the flu shots and there is an "operation fax to stop the vax". Doctors said people are distorting facts and spreading falsehoods which can endanger public health.

The expert emphasised the vaccine is also safe for pregnant women.

"Did you know the H1N1 vaccine is made just as the seasonal flu vaccines are made?" he said. "There are no unusual side effects," he said.

There are separate vaccinations for infants and children under five years of age, he said.

Flu usually attacks the upper respiratory tract, affecting the nose and throat, while H1N1 goes deeper, into the lungs.

Dr Hallaj said H1N1 is a mild disease, but there is panic. "The virus is very efficient and transmission from person-to-person is rapid," said the WHO expert.

"The safety of people is our main concern and providing more information helps," said Dr Ameen Al Amiri, CEO for Medical Practice and Licence, who moderated the WHO update. "It is very important to provide proper knowledge," he said.

He repeated that there is no need to panic over the new flu which has so far claimed 4,700 lives worldwide.

Many parents had advocated a late start to the new academic session at schools and stopped their children from attending the first few days as children returned from their holidays.

He said the advice to people, the elderly and the young, not to go on the annual Haj pilgrimage, was to protect them. More than two million people are expected at the Haj later next month.






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