Insurers play down indemnity fears over H1N1 vax
MEDICAL defence organisations (MDOs) are reassuring GPs they will have medico-legal protection when the Federal Government’s swine flu vaccination program rolls out later this month.
However, a leading immunisation expert is still urging GPs to exercise caution, noting the H1N1 vaccine has yet to be licensed.
The moves follow media reports that MDOs were debating their position amid fears the H1N1 vaccine had been inadequately tested, and its distribution in multi-dose vials could potentially expose patients to blood-borne cross-infection.
MDA National president Associate Professor Julian Rait confirmed on national radio it would cover GPs administering the vaccines. A Medical Indemnity Protection Society spokesperson told MO the insurer also would indemnify doctors, adding GPs would need to advise patients that “the vaccine is untested and may [currently] have unknown consequences”.
While Avant has not finalised its position, as MO went to press general manager of claims Lisa Clarke indicated it would follow suit. “It would be unlikely that we would choose to be significantly out of step with the position that the rest of the industry has chosen to adopt,” she said.
The rollout of the 21 million dose program is expected soon, with a CSL spokeswoman saying interim dose 1 data from the adult study was due to be handed to the Federal Government this week.
The TGA had recommended the vials be discarded within a day of being opened “as a precautionary measure” but the vaccine product information was not yet finalised, CSL said.
However GP immunisation expert Dr Peter Eizenberg warned critical questions were yet to be resolved.
“The vaccine is not licensed and the safety study is not complete and there are issues about the handling for the vaccine and [its administration] and while those issues are not resolved I don’t think we can proceed,” he told MO.
“Some are saying the risks are not worth taking at this stage because of the virulence of the virus and the waning incidence. Really this vaccine is two months too late to roll out in an accelerated fashion.”