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NHS sets out H1N1 vaccination targets

Frontline health and social care staff 'urged' to take up offer of vaccination

OnMedica staff

Friday, 14 August 2009

The swine flu vaccination programme will prioritise all pregnant women, all those at risk groups eligible for the current seasonal flu vaccine aged up to an over 65 and all household contacts of an immunocompromised individual.

The programme, the biggest mass vaccination in peacetime, is set to start in October according to the NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson in a letter to all NHS staff where he urges all eligible frontline NHS workers to be vaccinated.

Frontline health and social care workers will be offered the vaccine at the same time as the first clinical risk group as they are at increased risk of infection and of transmitting that infection to vulnerable patients.

A nationwide NHS advertising campaign will encourage people to come forward and at the same time, targeted communications to those people who are normally advised to get a seasonal flu jab will continue to encourage them to make an appointment for their annual vaccination.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said that the announcement was made on the basis of advice from independent expert committees, including the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

Mr Burnham says these groups have been identified because they are at highest risk of severe illness should they contract the swine flu virus. They should be prioritised for vaccination in order, once the vaccine has been licensed.

Those staff eligible for seasonal flu vaccine will be eligible for swine flu vaccination. This includes staff who have regular clinical contact with patients and who are directly involved in patient care.

In his letter Mr Nicholson thanked NHS staff for their work and "urged" all those eligible to take-up the offer of early swine flu vaccination.

"This will protect yourselves, your family and your patients. I want to take this opportunity to remind you that the swine flu vaccination will not protect you against seasonal flu, and recommend that you take up the offer of the seasonal flu vaccine this year too."

Vaccine manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter have advised that they expect a license for the vaccine to be granted around the end of September/ beginning of October.  

Based on these assumptions, Mr Nicholson says the vaccination programme will begin a short time after.  

Further operational guidance to the NHS on the roll out of the programme will be made available in the next few weeks.

The Department of Health is working with the BMA and NHS organisations to reach a comprehensive swine flu vaccine implementation plan for the first stage of the programme.

Preparations continue to be made to extend the programme beyond these initial priority groups and JCVI will consider this matter further and report back in due course.

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