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DH announce priority groups for swine flu vaccination

By Christian Duffin

GPs and practice staff are among those in the government's priority groups to receive the swine flu vaccine, the Department of Health has announced.

The DH has confirmed that frontline health workers should be vaccinated ‘in parallel' with four other priority groups, and that these people should be vaccinated starting from October, and will be vaccianted by Christmas at the latest.

The timescale is as predicted by Pulse last week, when we revealed there would be a six-week gap between the first vaccine deliveries and the start of the programme.

Priority will be given, along with GPs and frontline staff, to patients aged 6 months to 65 years in the seasonal flu at-risk groups, followed by pregnant women.

Third on the list is ‘household contacts of immunocompromised individuals' followed by ‘individuals over 65 in seasonal flu at-risk groups. Women at later stages of birth may be given different priority to those in early stages, however.

The announcement means practices will be expected to run two flu vaccination campaigns simultaneously.

Professor David Salisbury, DH director of immunisation said: ‘GPs are one of the groups identified as front-line providers, and they have every right to protect themselves, and their staff as well as their patients.'

Chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson said that GPs will face a shortage of swine flu vaccine initially as one of the companies contracted to manufacture the vaccine, Baxter, is unable to produce the amount that it originally promised.

The announcement came as weekly GP consultation rates for flu-like illnesses decreased again, from 42 per 100,000 to 30.9 for the week ending August 9.

The proportion of healthy people dying of swine flu has risen from 12% to 21% up to the week ending August.

There were an estimated 25,000 additional cases in that week, although this represents a further reduction in flu-like activity. There were eight more UK deaths in the week, pushing the total up to 49.

The priority groups for swine flu vaccination have been revealed

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