Tories call for child swine flu jabs
By Lilian Anekwe
The Government has come under pressure to extend the swine flu vaccination programme to include school-aged children and college students after the Conservatives called for the jab to be rolled out to schools.
In response the Department of Health said it would announce details of precisely who the vaccination program would be extended to and when 'shortly'.
A Department of Health spokesman said:'The swine flu vaccination programme is driven by global evidence and advice from eminent scientists. As a result, vaccination of the most vulnerable people is already well underway.
'The Chief Medical Officer has already announced that the vaccine programme will be extended - we will announce details shortly. Never before have we been in such a fortunate position to have vaccine so early in a pandemic - but we don't have enough to protect everyone at once, so the most vulnerable people must come first.'
But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley insisted that a recent visit to meet US flu experts convinced him of the need for a school-based vaccination programme in the UK, as their data showed ‘the incidence and severity of swine flu is significantly greater in the under 24 age group, compared to the rest of the healthy population.
‘The number of cases is rising, albeit not as fast or as far as many had feared,' he said. 'As the Chief Medical Officer [Sir Liam Donaldson] said, this gives us a ‘window of opportunity' with the supply of vaccines.'
‘For weeks now, behind the scenes, I have urged the Government to extend the vaccination programme to school children and college students,' he added.
‘A school-based programme needs preparation and needs to be coordinated with vaccine availability. I urge the Government to make the decision and put the plan in place.'
Young children and adolescents have been the age group worst-affected by swine flu, but the latest Department of Health figures, published today, show the highest GP consultation rates for flu-like illness were in the under-1 and 1-4 year-old age groups.
And compared with last week, this week rates have increased in most age groups, but decreased in school children and young adults in the 5-14 and 15-24 years age bands.
Meanwhile the average rate of 37.7 last week – a decrease from the 42.8 per 100,000 the week before. The number of cases rose by 8% from 78,000 to 84,000 in the last week.Andrew Lansley: calling for children to get swine flu vaccine Andrew Lansley: call for children to get swine flu vaccine