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UK government stockpiles antibiotic for flu pandemic

The UK government is stockpiling around 15 million courses of antibiotics to treat at-risk groups for secondary bacterial infections in a move to step up its flu pandemic strategy

The UK government is stockpiling around 15 million courses of antibiotics to treat at-risk groups for secondary bacterial infections, as part of its new flu pandemic strategy.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson revealed on 22 November that the government had developed counter-measures to step up protection against the possibility of a flu pandemic. The new plans are based on a worst case scenario of an infection rate of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of the total UK population.

The Department of Health has signed agreements with UK-based GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and US-headquartered Baxter Pharmaceuticals to supply sufficient pandemic specific vaccine for the UK population when the specific viral strain has been identified.

According to the announcement the government will: acquire 14.7 million courses of antibiotics to cover at risk groups; double the stock of antiviral medicines to cover at least 50 per cent of the population; and purchase 350 million surgical masks and 34 million respirators for NHS and social care staff on the frontline.

The UK government has an existing stockpile of 3.3 million doses of H5N1 pre-pandemic vaccine specifically for healthcare workers and is currently assessing scientific evidence in relation to future decisions on pre-pandemic vaccines.

In addition, a new National Flu Pandemic Framework will coordinate the responses of all government departments, regional assemblies and all public and private bodies. It also sets out how the UK will respond if a flu pandemic occurs.

Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, said: "The framework will enable organisations, such as schools, businesses, transport and the NHS to prepare for a pandemic in an integrated manner, with the full support of cross-government policy and planning.î

30th September 2008

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