Gamal el-Zeini, MP for the ruling National Democratic Party, criticized the Health Ministry in Monday’s parliamentary session for encouraging the public to take the vaccine against the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, when it is both "unnecessary and unsafe." He went on to accuse the government of exploiting popular fears of the virus to make money off of vaccine sales.
"The government is doing business at the expense of the citizenry," he said, going on to wonder aloud why he had not yet received a reply to an interpellation on the matter submitted last October.
"The company from which we bought the vaccine said it won’t be held responsible for any side effects," el-Zeini said. "Yet the ministry bought the vaccine nevertheless, even though four other companies had guaranteed their product to be 100-percent safe."
MP Said Atteya called recent warnings about the possible mutation of the virus a "big lie" perpetrated by the government, since the virus was largely eradicated in Europe and the US several weeks ago. "I won’t believe anything the health minister says from now on," Atteya said.
According to Cairo University Hospital President Ashraf Hatem, the decision to vaccinate school students was "political" in nature rather than "scientific," since doctors had not been consulted beforehand. "We need at least 17 million doses for such a vaccination campaign," he said, accusing the ministry of causing undue panic among the public.
Hatem went on, however, to vouch for the vaccine’s safety."It might only affect pregnant women and children under the age of three," he explained.
Muslim Brotherhood MP Akram el-Shaer held the Health Ministry–not the media–directly responsible for the panic.
MP Farid Ismail, for his part, demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif’s government for failing to handle both the avian and swine flu issues satisfactorily.
Health Ministry Undersecretary Nasr el-Sayed retorted by saying that the vaccine imported by the ministry was the only one to have been approved by the World Health Organization. "Twenty other countries have also imported it," he said.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.