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Law firms look to jump flu vaccine queue
« on: August 17, 2009, 06:39:52 am »

Law firms look to jump flu vaccine queue

By Andrew Bounds and Nicholas Timmins
Published: August 13 2009 22:10 | Last updated: August 13 2009 22:10

Law firms and other businesses are seeking to jump the queue ahead of pregnant women and other vulnerable groups by mass vaccinating their staff against swine flu.

“Law firms especially are already asking for vaccinations. They cannot afford to have a lot of people off sick,” according to one private doctor who did not wish to be named.

His comments came as Samedaydoctor, which runs a chain of private clinics in cities that include London and Edinburgh, said it would run a private vaccination programme.

“We shall certainly be giving the vaccine when it becomes available,” said Carole Carp, the company’s managing director, though she was unable to say when it would be able to obtain supplies, the first of which are due to be delivered to the department of health this month.

On Thursday, Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, outlined the government’s initial vaccination programme for 11m people. Children and adults with chronic and serious medical conditions will be the first priority, followed by pregnant women and some 2m frontline health and social care workers.

The vaccine’s effectiveness in reducing deaths and serious complications depends on whether it can be completed and deployed before the anticipated arrival of the second wave of the virus in the autumn.

Sir Liam said the two manufacturers supplying the UK – Baxter and GSK – plan to deliver about 300,000 doses this month, some of which will be used in trials. A further 4.3m doses are due in September, with the cumulative total rising to 19m in October, 35m in November and almost 55m in December.

The vaccine requires two doses three weeks apart to be fully effective, and with the vaccines not likely to be licensed until late September or early October, it will be October before the first priority groups receive their first dose.

Vaccination will start with the 4.7m people aged between six months and 65 in the priority groups for seasonal flu vaccine, which includes those with chronic diseases such as heart and respiratory conditions.

They will be followed by pregnant women, household contacts of patients whose immune systems are compromised, and then the 3.5m in the priority groups for the over-65s.

Alongside that, some 1.24m frontline health workers and 850,000 social care staff will be offered the vaccine. This will provide significant levels of protection if the second wave of flu holds off until December.

Precise delivery plans were still being negotiated with the British Medical Association, Sir Liam said, although many in the priority groups could get one of their doses from GPs alongside their normal seasonal flu vaccine.

While children have so far been disproportionately affected and can help spread the virus, Sir Liam said those at greatest risk of complications should take priority. Decisions on wider vaccination of the healthy population would depend on the evolution of the pandemic, he said.

The plans were outlined as the estimated number of cases continued to decline to 25,000 last week against 110,000 at the peak, with the numbers in hospital and in critical care also falling. The total of deaths has reached 44 in England plus five in Scotland.

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