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GPs and practice staff on frontline turn down swine flu vaccine

By Nigel Praities

Many GPs and practice staff are refusing to be vaccinated against swine flu, even in ‘hot-spot' areas where rates of infection are rising fastest.

At some practices no front line staff have agreed to have the vaccine, despite BMA and Government warnings that it is ‘crucial' to the success of the campaign.

And some GPs warned there were early signs that take-up among patients might also be disappointing, amid continued fears over vaccine safety.

A Pulse survey in August found nearly half of GPs had at that time been planning to turn the vaccine down, with doubts over safety one of the key reasons.

Dr Niall Finegan, a GP in Salford, Manchester – close to a hot spot in Trafford - said he, the four other GPs and six staff members at his practice planned to refuse the vaccine, and that he did not believe there was enough evidence it was safe.

'It's not been around very long. The fact we are testing it out on pregnant women does not bear thinking about,' he said.

Dr Louise Warburton, a GP in Telford – identified as one of the country's hotspots, with nearly three times the national average consultations for influenza-like illness – said she was planning to say no to the vaccine, as were many other local GPs.

Practice staff were also reluctant in many areas. Dr Helen Groom, a GP in Sunderland – also a hot-spot – said she would have the vaccine, but around a third of her 23 staff planned to refuse it.

And some GPs warned their own doubts were shared by patients. Dr Andra Jayaweera, a GP in Rayleigh, Essex, said she would not have the vaccine, and nor would her practice staff and many of her patients: ‘I usually get 100% uptake for seasonal flu, but for swine flu the response is very low.'

Dr Liz Miller, a locum GP in London, said she would not recommend the vaccine to her patients because of safety concerns: ‘I do not intend to be vaccinated, nor will I recommend it to patients. It is untested and unnecessary. It's time doctors started thinking for themselves instead of mindlessly obeying the Department of Health because they are terrified of missing out on free money.'

But Dr David Wild, a GP in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, said: ‘I will be having the swine flu vaccine and it will be offered to all our staff. Our practice is a team and if people start having problems we will not be able carry out the vaccination programme effectively. ‘

Many GPs and practice staff have decided not to have the swine flu vaccine Many GPs and practice staff have decided not to have the swine flu vaccine

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