Fertility and pregnancy * Healthy living

Swine flu vaccination underway

Zone default image Frontline healthcare workers first

A mass swine flu vaccination programme began today in the UK, starting with healthcare workers and their patients in the swine flu high risk groups.

In the coming weeks, over 11 million people in England will be offered the vaccine.

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, said: "This is the first pandemic for which we have had a vaccine to protect people. I urge everyone in the priority groups to have the vaccine - it will help prevent people in clinical risk groups from getting swine flu and the complications that may arise from it."

Prioritised risk groups

These include people at high risk of disease complications if they are infected with the virus:

  • Those between the ages of six months and 65 years in the seasonal flu vaccine at-risk groups
  • All pregnant women
  • Household contacts of people with weakened immune systems e.g. people in regular close contact with patients being treated for cancer
  • People 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups

Healthy over-65s are not included in the high risk groups for swine flu as they appear to have some natural immunity to the virus.

NHS hospitals will start vaccinating around two million frontline healthcare staff and their patients in the high risk groups today. Healthcare and social care staff are at increased risk of infection, and are more likely to pass the virus on to patients.

Batches of the vaccine are due at GP surgeries from Monday 26th October. Patients in the high risk groups can expect to be contacted by their GPs.

Most people will be offered the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline. One dose should be enough to protect against the virus. Both the seasonal and swine flu vaccines can be administered at the same time if necessary.

Andy Burnham, UK Health Secretary, said: “Our best line of defence against swine flu is the vaccine. I’m very pleased to say that the UK is one of the first countries in the world to start vaccinating against this virus."

To date, the swine flu virus has been linked to over 100 deaths in the UK, including two pregnant women. Most hospitalisations due to the virus have occurred in the under 5 age group.

This article was published on Wed 21 October 2009

Image © stelegin - Fotolia.com

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