Caution for Today: GBS Risk With Old Swine-Flu Vaccine
While drugmakers create a vaccine against the currently pandemic swine-flu virus (H1N1 S-OIV 2009), neurologists are advised to monitor the safety of such inoculations, should they be implemented. The caution is founded on a higher-than-expected rate of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) in vaccine recipients during the 1976 immunization campaign against swine flu, reports Neurology Today.
More than 30 years ago, soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, experienced an outbreak of swine flu. Fearing a recurrence of the 1918 influenza epidemic, US government officials implemented a widespread vaccine campaign in which more than 40 million Americans were immunized. However, the drive was aborted after 3 months when reports of GBS in vaccinated individuals emerged. Although GBS surveillance data for the time period are sketchy, evidence suggests that vaccine recipients were significantly more likely to develop the condition within several weeks after inoculation.*
At present, leading neurologists do not anticipate a government-led vaccine campaign against H1N1 S-OIV 2009, given the low mortality rate (0.5%) of the current swine-flu pandemic and the historical risk of GBS with inoculation.
* The typical background rate of GBS is about 1.5 per 100,000 individuals.