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Swine flu vaccination launched

The UK-wide programme combating the spread of swine flu has been launched, targeting 14 million priority patients and frontline health workers

The UK-wide programme aimed at combating the spread of swine flu was launched today, targeting 14 million priority patients and frontline health workers in its initial phase.

Doses of the drug Pandemrix, developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), are being offered in hospitals from today and being delivered to GP surgeries from Monday October 26, when healthcare professionals will invite people with health problems, damaged immune systems and pregnant women to come forward for immunisation.

Concerns have been raised over the effect of the postal strike. Sir Liam Donaldson, the government's chief medical officer said the timing of the industrial action was unhelpful as GPs would be sending out appointment letters in the post, but that work is being done to get "round" it.

The Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, was at University College Hospital in London for the first vaccination. He said: "The people today who are volunteering are showing real leadership, they are sending a clear message out to people working in the health service that it is the right thing to do."

"We are one of the first countries in the world to launch a vaccination programme and we are looking ahead to a very difficult winter in the NHS, there is still seasonal flu around and we have the added challenge of H1N1 swine flu," Burnham added.

NHS staff have traditionally been reluctant to participate in mass immunisations. Only around 20 per cent normally receive the seasonal flu vaccination. In an attempt to overcome suspicions, professional health organisations have urged their members to be inoculated. The statement reads:

"By the nature of their work, many NHS staff come into close contact with patients and the public and have a higher risk of exposure to the virus. The vaccine has been thoroughly tested. All NHS organisations will be working hard to ensure that eligible staff are given access to the vaccination to protect themselves, their families and their patients from swine flu. We encourage staff to protect themselves with the swine flu vaccine, in addition to the seasonal flu immunisation."

So far, just over 100 people with swine flu have died in the UK out of about 500,000 who have been infected.

GSK was granted EU marketing authorisation for Pandemrix earlier this month.

21st October 2009

From: Healthcare

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