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Flu pandemic strategy doubles antibiotics stockpile

The Government is to create a stockpile of almost 15 million courses of antibiotics to treat at risk groups for secondary bacterial infections as part of a new flu pandemic strategy.

Announcing the strategy earlier today, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said the countermeasures had been developed to offer increased protection against the effects of a flu pandemic if a 'worst case scenario' happened.

The Department has already signed agreements with two pharmaceutical companies, GSK and Baxter, to supply enough pandemic specific vaccine for the entire population once the pandemic strain has been identified.

The new countermeasures include plans to:

- Double the stock of antivirals to cover at least 50 per cent of the population

- Buy 14.7 million courses of antibiotics to cover at risk groups

- Purchase 350million surgical masks and 34m respirators for NHS and social care staff on the frontline.

The Government also has an existing stockpile of 3.3 million doses of H5N1 pre-pandemic vaccine for healthcare workers and will be considering all the latest scientific evidence in relation to future decisions on pre-pandemic vaccines.

Alan Johnson said: 'Our new plans provide the first national blueprint for the UK's response to a pandemic flu. We are strengthening our countermeasures to ensure we have the necessary vaccines, antibiotics and antivirals to protect the population if the worst were to happen.
'We have spent several years developing and testing plans with front line service providers and listening to expert national and international advice on how best to prepare the country and will continue to do that as new evidence or medical advances emerge. "

Although previous pandemics during the last century have resulted in infection rates at or around 25 per cent, the new plans are based on a 'reasonable worst case' of an infection rate between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of the population.

Alongside the countermeasures a new National Flu Pandemic Framework, which coordinates the responses of all government departments, regional assemblies and all public and private bodies, will set out how the UK will respond if a flu pandemic occurs.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said: "We may not be able to prevent a pandemic, but with good planning we can reduce its impact on all aspects of society. This framework will enable organisations such as schools, businesses, transport, and the NHS to prepare for a pandemic in an integrated manner, with the full support of cross-government policy and planning.'

Flu jab

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