LONDON - In a drive to inoculate people against swine flu before winter, many European governments say they will fast-track the testing of a vaccine, arousing concern among some specialists about safety and proper doses.
The European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s top drug regulatory body, is accelerating the approval process for swine flu vaccine, and countries such as Britain, Greece, France, and Sweden say they’ll start using the vaccine after it’s green-lighted - possibly within weeks.
In an interview, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization’s flu chief, warned about the potential dangers of untested vaccines, although he stopped short of criticizing Europe’s approach outright.
“One of the things which cannot be compromised is the safety of vaccines,’’ he said Friday.
Flu vaccines have been used for 40 years, and many specialists say extensive testing is unnecessary. But European officials won’t know whether the new vaccine causes any rare side effects until millions of people receive the shots. Still, they say, the benefit of saving lives is worth the gamble.
“With the winter flu season approaching, we need to make sure the vaccine is available,’’ said Martin Harvey-Allchurch, a spokesman for the European Medicines Agency.