Germany has become the fourth country to ban sales of flu vaccines made by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis. The ban relates to safety concerns over the vaccines, sold under the brand names Begripal and Fluad.
German health authorities announced the ban on Thursday, saying four batches of the Begripal flu vaccine -also marketed as Agrippal - and one batch of the Fluad vaccine were no longer for sale.
In a statement, Germany's Paul Ehrlich Institute - which regulates vaccines - said the move was a precautionary measure after concerns were raised that the product was unsafe. It added that so far there have been no reports of adverse side-effects in Germany.
It comes a day after Italy raised the alarm when white particles were seen in syringes carrying the vaccines.
Bans across Europe
Italian, Swiss and Austrian authorities responded by suspending the sale of the vaccines. The Swiss national drug agency Swissmedic also ordered an "immediate halt" of the vaccines owing to "possible impurities".
Novartis said Thursday that it was cooperating with the Ministry of Health in Italy, where the vaccines are produced, adding that it had it was confident the safety of the vaccines has not been compromised.
"These particles can occur in the vaccine manufacturing process," Novartis said in a statement, adding it was "confident that there is no impact on the safety or efficacy of the vaccine."
The company said it had voluntarily provided Italian health authorities with its assessments "supporting the quality, efficacy and safety" of the vaccines, and that it would continue working with them in a bid to understand their decision to put a freeze on the vaccines.
ccp/slk (AFP, AP, dpa)