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Revealed: risk priority groups for swine flu vaccination

By Lilian Anekwe

Exclusive: GPs will be vaccinated first in the Government's swine flu vaccination campaign, followed by pregnant women, young children and adults with chronic illnesses, Pulse can exclusively reveal.

Pulse has learned from a senior Government adviser that a provisional ‘pecking order' has been drawn up for vaccination. Everyone in the UK will be vaccinated eventually, but priority is set to be given in the following order:

• Healthcare professionals

• Pregnant women

• All children under five

• Adults aged under 65 with a chronic illness

• Young people aged under 18

• All other patients not in the categories above

The first doses of the swine flu vaccine will be available in the early autumn, and GPs will be thrust into the front line to deliver an immunisation campaign to patient groups outside the over 65 age group which is the main focus of the seasonal flu campaign.

This means GPs face the looming prospect of running two different vaccination campaigns in different patient groups simultaneously.

The source told Pulse: ‘The priorities for vaccination are a big priority for the Department of Health and it looks like it may be more prevalent come the winter. Even if only a small number of people develop complications that is still going to be a huge number of people if the proportions are as high as the 30% the Government is planning for.

‘It's almost certain that GPs and healthcare professionals will be vaccinated first, because you've got to keep your workforce going.

‘After that, at-risk groups will be vaccinated. This will mean pregnant women, because there seems to be a suggestion that they are at specific risk.'

‘The remaining groups will be all children under five, those aged under 65 with a chronic illness, and then under 18s.'

‘That's the tentative pecking order. Older people are not a priority group for the swine flu vaccination as it seems that everybody born before 1958 might have been already exposed to this H1N1 swine flu virus.'

GPC negotiators are still locked in discussions with the Department of Health over exactly how the vaccination campaign will be run, and how it will be financed.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘The £7.51 GPs are currently paid is part of a package of financial arrangements to run the practice. Swine flu is completely different, is most likely to cover different groups than the seasonal flu campaign, and so will have a completely different order of magnitude and will require extra resources. That's what we are trying to negotiate.'

A Department of Health spokesperson said: 'There is no list, and we have not yet taken a final decision on who will receive the vaccine first.'

'We are discussing this with our independent scientific experts. Decisions will be made on the basis of the most up-to-date evidence about the severity and spread of the disease and the delivery supply timetables.'

GPs face the prospect of running two different flu vaccination campaigns simultaneously GPs face the prospect of running two different flu vaccination campaigns simultaneously

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