More than 700,000 people who thought they were protected against typhoid may be vulnerable to the disease, because of a dud batches of a vaccine.
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By Stephen Adams, Medical Correspondent
5:46PM BST 08 Oct 2012
Manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur MSD has recalled 16 batches of its Typhim Vi vaccine – some 88 per cent of its stock – after tests found some of it was too weak.
The “reduced potency” shots could have been given to anyone immunised since January 2011.
The firm last night emphasised that defective doses of the vaccine itself were not dangerous.
However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which regulates drugs, said it could mean up to 729,606 had received weak vaccine.
This would mean they were more exposed to the bacterial infection that causes typhoid, than they thought.
An MHRA spokesman said: “This recall is due to concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine in some syringes distributed from 7 January 2011 following filling problems in the manufacturing process.
“Therefore some patients who have been vaccinated with Typhim Vi may not be fully protected against the disease.
“If you received this vaccine and have recently returned from abroad, and are unwell, you should contact your doctor.”
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread through contaminated food and water. It is rare in Britain but common throughout the tropics and sub-tropics.
Infections can cause intestinal bleeding, heart problems, pneumonia, seizures and swelling of the brain. If not treated with antibiotics, it can be fatal.
The vaccine is available free on the NHS for those travelling to high risk areas, or can be purchased through private clinics.
A spokesman for Sanofi Pasteur said the company decided to recall the batches after discovering that too many had reduced potency.
He said the cause of the problem had been identified, “but there will be a shortage” in coming months.
“We are hoping to get supplies back to normal by early 2013,” he said.
“We understand the difficulties this recall may cause for our customers and people relying upon our vaccines. We would like to offer our most sincere apologies for the inconveniences incurred.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Typhoid is rare in this country and is usually associated with travel to countries where sanitation is inadequate.
“The vaccine is still available and we are working with manufacturers to help ensure that current supply problems are resolved as soon as possible.
“People who have recently been immunised should seek medical advice about precautions to take whilst abroad to minimise the risk of infection, in case the vaccine has not provided full protection.”
A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said: “Provisional data from 2011 to September 2012 do not suggest that there has been a spike in cases of Typhoid since January 2011 when the problem with the vaccine dates back to.
“Normal typhoid vaccine is 50-80 per cent effective travellers are advised to practise strict food, water and personal hygiene precautions even if vaccinated.”