Saudi FDA approves H1N1 vaccine ahead of pilgrimage

RIYADH, Nov 3 (Reuters) - The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) approved GlaxoSmithKline's


vaccine for the H1N1 swine flu virus on Tuesday, as the kingdom gears up for more than two million pilgrims at next month's haj.

"The authority ... has been following through all the phases of the production of the A (H1N1) flu vaccine by several international companies specialized in vaccines," the SFDA said in a statement on its website.

The authority added that it decided to register GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine, which is distributed under the Pandemrix brand name.

Around 3 million pilgrims from more than 160 countries take part in the haj in the holy city of Mecca most years, including up to 2 million who travel from abroad.

Disease experts from the U.S. and Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, said last week that waves of H1N1 swine flu spread by pilgrims travelling to and from Mecca for next month's haj threaten to put pressure on healthcare systems around the world. [ID:nLT239445]

The pilgrimage itself, in the last week of November, provides perfect conditions for the spread of the H1N1 flu virus, which is transmitted in droplets and by physical contact. (Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)