Press Release

Minister Martin issues statement about Polio Vaccine distributed in 1998/9

The Department of Health and Children has been informed that one UK blood donor, the plasma of whose donation was used in Britain to make a batch of the product Human Serum Albumin, has recently been diagnosed as having the variant form of Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (vCJD).

This person’s donation was one of 22,353 used to make a pool. This in turn was combined with another pool to give a final dilution of 1/63,866.

This Human Serum Albumin was used by Evans/Medeva in the manufacture of Oral Polio Vaccine, as an essential stabilising agent. Approximately 83,500 doses of the polio vaccine in question were distributed in Ireland between 15 January 1998 and 30 January 1999. More detailed checking is taking place with the Health Boards in relation to the precise usage of this vaccine.

It is not possible to state in medicine that there is absolutely zero risk, but expert advice, both national and international, available to the Department of Health and Children indicates that in this situation it is almost certainly the case.

Albumin has a long tradition of safety. This is based partly on the fact that the purification methods used in its manufacture eliminate the potential for infectivity. Albumin is produced at the last stage of a series of purification procedures. Recent studies of the various plasma fractions have shown no infectivity associated with albumin.

Polio vaccine is administered to children as part of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme at the ages of 2, 4 and 6 months, and a booster immunisation is given at primary school entry age. Some adults may also have received the vaccine as part of the recommended immunisations for travel to certain countries.

There is no longer any UK-sourced plasma material contained in any vaccine in use in Ireland.

Parents may contact their family doctor if they wish to enquire whether or not their child received vaccine from any of the batches concerned, as part of their primary immunisations.

Also, each Health Board has been requested to establish a telephone line which concerned parents can call to enquire whether or not their child received any of the vaccine, as a booster immunisation. This service will also enable reassurance to be given to parents.

The Health Board telephone numbers, which will all be fully operational from tomorrow, Wednesday morning, are:

East Coast Area Health Board
Northern Area Health Board
South-Western Area Health Board
1800 454500 (4.00 p.m.- 12.00 p.m. midnight today and
from 9.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. Wednesday to Friday)
Midland Health Board 1800 463646
Mid-Western Health Board 1800 202255
North-Eastern Health Board 1800 342424
North-Western Health Board 1 1800 200710
Southern Health Board 1800 742000
South-Eastern Health Board 1 1800 300654
Western Health Board 180 1800 201220

Additional information on this issue will be displayed on the Department’s website and on the websites of the Irish Medicines Board (www.imb.ie) and on the websites of the individual health boards.

Vaccine Batch Details (for information)

The numbers of the batches of Evans Polio Vaccine, with the product description POLIOV/10/1EI, are as follows:

Batch Expiry date
E7213/01A 10/05/98
E7213/02A 10/05/98
E7213/02B 09/06/98
E8214/01A 02/08/98
E8214/01B 15/09/98
E8215/01A 24/12/98
E8215/01B 31/01/99

Possible questions regarding Oral Polio Vaccine and Human Serum Albumin/vCJD Issue