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GPs to get new swine flu vaccine first

GPs and other frontline health workers will be first in line for a pre-pandemic vaccine, Alan Johnson has said.

The Department of Health announced it has agreed a deal with pharmaceutical companies to manufacture a pre-pandemic vaccine for the UK.

The likelihood of the current outbreak of swine flu developing into a full-blown pandemic ‘remains high' health secretary Alan Johnson has told the House of Commons.

Deals have been signed with GSK and Baxter to produce 90 million doses of pre-pandemic vaccine, based on the current H1N1 strain, before a pandemic begins.

GPs, frontline healthcare workers, older patients and those in the current clinical risk groups for the annual flu vaccine will qualify for the first available doses.

The agreement means that by December, the UK will have enough pre-pandemic vaccine to protect at least half of the population from swine flu.

This is an addition to a separate agreement already in place to secure 132 million doses of a swine-flu specific vaccine, to be triggered if the World Health Organisation raises the pandemic alert to level six.

Alan Johnson said: ‘We have Advance Purchase Agreements to provide vaccine for the entire UK population which will take effect when Phase 6 pandemic is declared. It will then take over a year for all the vaccine necessary to be provided.

‘We also have an opportunity to secure vaccine in advance of a pandemic wave. These additional arrangements provide the opportunity by December this year to have enough pre-pandemic vaccine to protect at least half of the population from swine flu.'

The Health Protection Agency announced today another four new confirmed cases of swine flu in England, diagnosed in four children in London. All four new cases were linked to patients that had previously been confirmed with swine flu and bring the total figure for the UK to 82.

Yesterday the number of confirmed swine flu cases worldwide rose by more than 1,000 in 24 hours to reach a total of 7,520 in 34 countries, according to the World Health Organisation, including 65 deaths.

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