Healthy living

Swine flu jabs start next week

swine flu vaccine to be given next week High risk groups will be vaccinated first

Swine flu vaccinations in the UK are due to start next week, the government has announced. Healthcare staff and hospital patients will be given the vaccine first.

People in the high risk groups for swine flu will be offered the vaccine in the following week. These include pregnant women, household contacts of persons with weakened immune systems, anyone in the seasonal flu risk groups between the age of 6 months to 65 years, and over-65s in the risk group for seasonal flu.

The news came as latest figures from the Health Protection Agency released on Thursday show that an estimated 27,000 people caught swine flu last week compared with 18,000 the week before.

The new figures amount to a doubling of new cases every two weeks, but are still far from the doubling of new cases seen each week when swine flu peaked in the summer.

School-aged children and young people continue to be the most affected.

Although the number of people visiting their GP with flu-like illness in England increased slightly from 26.3 to 29.1 consultations per 100,000 people, the highest rate was seen in the 5 to 14 year-old age group (49.3 per 100,000), followed by 1 to 4 year-olds.

The number of people in hospital due to the virus rose from 290 to 363. The number of patients in intensive care jumped from 47 to 74.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said that this was a concern. "This is the highest proportion of hospitalised patients who have been in intensive care since this began.

"For most of the time it's been about 12% to 13% (patients in intensive care), now it's up to 20%, suggesting we are seeing more serious cases than we were seeing before."

The number of deaths linked to the virus now stands at 106: 83 in England, 15 in Scotland, 4 in Northern Ireland and 4 in Wales, including two women who were infected with the virus while pregnant.

Most illness caused by the virus is mild, but can be severe in a minority of people, particularly if they are in the high risk groups.

Over 11 million people in high risk groups will be offered the vaccine in the coming weeks.

The government has ordered enough vaccine for the entire UK population.

This article was published on Fri 16 October 2009

Image © Gabriel Blaj -

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