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Infants to get swine flu vaccine

Friday November 20th, 2009

Child receiving an injectionPre-school children and infants in Britain are to get the swine flu vaccine, it was announced last night.

The government move followed warnings that paediatric departments might not be able to cope in the event of an epidemic of the H1N1 virus.

Government officials said they too were concerned about the high rates of admission to critical care and number of deaths of young children.

The latest figures for swine flu spread yesterday highlighted the uncertainty about this winter as numbers of new infections continue to decline - but remain high.

According to the Health Protection Agency, the flu is still well short of an epidemic, estimating some 53,000 new cases last week in England and 142 deaths in total.

The vaccine is now to be offered to children from the age of six months and under the age of five.

Some GPs reacted in dismay to the news, claiming they were not prepared for the extension.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Liam Donaldson said: "Protecting those most at risk from the disease will reduce the levels of serious illness, and deaths. That's why we will shortly offer the vaccine to young children."

Professor Steve FieldThe chairman of the Royal College of GPs Professor Steve Field said: "We shouldn't underestimate swine flu, it is a nasty infection and its effects can be devastating. I know that some parents have concerns about immunisation but the swine flu vaccine is our most effective protection against the virus. This is obviously a personal choice but I would advise all parents whose children are offered the vaccine to take it up.

"If you are worried, please talk to your GP and get all the information so that you can make an informed choice."

But Northern Ireland GP Dr Tom Black, deputy chairman of the local BMA GP committee, said: "There has been no agreement with GPs to deliver the second phase of the vaccination programme.

"This programme needs to move forward on a four-country negotiation basis to ensure that H1N1 vaccinations are delivered safely to patients."

He said GPs welcomed the extension of the programme - but needed consultation about how it would be done.

* Europe faces a growing swine flu epidemic, according to reports from countries ranging from Spain to Sweden.

Global reports suggest a major problem also in Canada - whilst the disease has now entered several African countries including Nigeria.

Tags: Child Health | Europe | Flu & Viruses | North America | Respiratory | UK News

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