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Hungary firm says bird flu vaccine effective

By Staff
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PILISBOROSJENO, Hungary, Feb 23 (Reuters) Hungarian firm Omninvest said today its vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu virus was in the final phase of clinical trials and would get a temporary distribution licence in Hungary in March.

Omninvest's spokesman Zsolt Nemeth said the vaccine, which the firm produces the same way as it has been making its regular flu vaccine since 1995, proved to be effective in human trials.

''Based on the 21-day control tests the vaccine proved to be effective,'' Nemeth said.

''We are evaluating the results of the 90-day control examinations now and we will do a 180-day control test. These two are needed to prove that the vaccine is effective for a lasting period,'' he added.

The deadly H5N1 bird flu strain was confirmed in three dead wild swans found in southern Hungary last week, the first cases of the virus in the country, but has not been detected in the domestic poultry stock.

Nemeth confirmed an announcement by the government last week that the company would have enough doses of the vaccine ready for the people working in the Hungarian poultry sector in case the H5N1 bird flu virus spread onto domestic poultry.

He said unlike other vaccines being developed elsewhere, Omninvest's vaccine contained a full, not a split, inactivated H5N1 virus.

He said the company has already produced several thousands of doses of the vaccine, which was tested on around 100 volunteers including Hungary's health minister last autumn.

''The domestic permission proceeding will get to a stage in early March when we will be able to say that this vaccine will get a temporary licence of distribution,'' he said.

The company said it could eventually produce 500,000 vaccines a week and supply Hungary's population of 10 million.

The vaccine's development was carried out by Hungary's national epidemiology centre and private company Omninvest.

''We do not wish to invest in capacity expansion in Hungary.

We are in talks with several countries about selling small quantities of vaccines but we wish to put the main focus on technology transfer,'' Nemeth said.

Omninvest has been making 1.3 million doses of vaccines annually against the regular human influenza virus since 1995.

REUTERS SRS RAI0000

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