WHO approves websites for vaccine safety

THE World Health Organisation (WHO), warning of one-sided and alarming reporting of vaccine safety on websites on Tuesday issued a list of 23 sites it deemed reliable.

The approved sites meet the WHO's criteria including credibility, content and disclosure of the group's funding, according to a statement.

"We want to help Web readers and governments have access to reliable information. These sites have passed the criteria for good practice and will be reviewed every 18 months," Philippe Duclos, WHO medical officer, told Reuters.

Vaccines prevent more than two million deaths per year, mainly among children, but a host of websites providing "unbalanced, misleading and alarming vaccine safety information" have appeared in recent years, confusing both patients and health workers, according to the United Nations Agency.

"A site offering interactive exchanges (e.g., chat room, medical advice) should provide information about the moderator or clinician's expertise and affiliations and source of compensation, as well as a disclaimer that all posted information may not be accurate," the WHO said.

Commercial sites are not eligible to be listed on its "Vaccine Safety Net," which can be found at

The WHO also issued its draft global immunisation strategy for 2006-2015, which aims to boost protection against traditional diseases - including measles, polio and tetanus - as well as emerging diseases.

Some 1.4 million children under age five die each year from diseases preventable by vaccines, one-third from measles alone.

An estimated 27 million infants and 40 million pregnant women lack immunisation each year, according to the agency.

An "unprecedented array of new vaccines" with great potential against diseases including rotavirus diarrhoea and cervical cancer, which claim several million more lives annually, are at advanced stages of development," it added.

Routine immunisation in 117 of the poorest countries is expected to cost $2 billion next year, double the cost of 2000, it said.

The draft strategy is to be debated by its 192 member states at the annual World Health Assembly next week.

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