Fertility and pregnancy * Babies and children * Young people * 50+ health

Who will get swine flu vaccine first?

who will get the vaccine first US experience may be template for UK

Although the UK government has ordered enough swine flu vaccine for every man, woman and child in the entire country, it is unlikely that enough will be ready for the start of UK flu season around September, October. So who should, or will, be vaccinated first?

This week a panel of experts from the US Centers for Disease Control drew up a list of people most at risk of complications from swine flu and who should be prioritised for vaccination in the US. The groups given priority were:

Pregnant women

A study in this week’s Lancet journal found that pregnant women were four times more likely to be treated in hospital if infected. And evidence from past pandemics has shown that deaths due to complications such as pneumonia are also higher.

Conclusion: Likely to be a priority in the UK.

Health care workers

Why? Because we need them. If not vaccinated they may actually contribute to the spread of the disease to patients with underlying health conditions.

Conclusion: Also likely to be prioritised in the UK.

Young people aged 6 months – 24 years

The group with least immunity to the virus. Schools and colleges facilitate the transmission of the virus. In the UK more than half of swine flu cases have occurred in this group. However, the age group most affected in the UK according to the Health Protection Agency are the 5 to 14 year olds.

Conclusion: UK may set a different upper age limit.

People with underlying health conditions

This covers people with chronic heart, lung and renal disease, diabetes, and anyone whose immune system is affected by illness or medication.

Conclusion: Likely to be vaccinated in the UK.

Over 65s

The CDC decided not to prioritise the over-65s as they are, so far, least likely to be infected by the virus They are still to be targeted in the US for vaccination against seasonal influenza. In the UK there has been no indication that we will follow this policy. The over 65s may be offered vaccination against both seasonal and pandemic flu viruses.

Conclusion: Likely to be offered the vaccine in the UK.

This article was published on Fri 31 July 2009

Image © Gabriel Blaj - Fotolia.com

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