Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Swine flu: Scots will be forced to wait 1½ years for full vaccination

Published Date: 08 July 2009

HEALTH bosses have admitted that the NHS will not be able to vaccinate all of the Scottish population against swine flu until November 2010 – almost 1½ years away.
The admission led to calls for action to ensure that Scotland does not suffer a vaccine shortage as the pandemic intensifies.

Experts have predicted that the number of swine-flu cases in Scotland will soar to 10,000 a day by the end of August
an doctors are anticipating for a rapid increase of the illness over the winter.

The fact that it will be 16 months before there is enough vaccine to cover the entire Scottish population was revealed in a letter from Kevin Woods, the NHS Scotland chief executive, to local NHS board officials.

The letter states: "According to current delivery estimates vaccine for 100 per cent of the population could be received by November 2010."

The letter went on to say that "a significant proportion ... possibly enough to vaccinate half the population" of the vaccine stock would arrive before the end of December this year. The first batches will arrive in August.

The letter added: "Delivery of the H1N1 vaccination programme will be a significant challenge for the NHS in Scotland, unprecedented in scale and scope."

Mary Scanlon, the Conservative health spokeswoman, said: "There was an understanding that there would be sufficient vaccine for all the population over the forthcoming winter months.

"People with asthma and diabetes, and health workers have to be prioritised. I think this is of concern, particularly given that we are told that the swine flu virus is likely to mutate into something more serious."

She added: "Given all the publicity over swine flu, there is likely to be an increase in demand for the vaccine.

"I hope the government will look at all the options to increase the supply of vaccine over the winter months."

The public has been urged not to panic-buy counterfeit swine flu drugs online. The government has also said that the ordered vaccine ought to be more than enough to supply those most at risk of serious illness as a result of contracting the virus.

Richard Simpson, the Labour MSP and former GP, said: "It looks like we are not going to vaccinate 100 per cent for a while, so the question has got to be 'who are the priorities for the injection going to be?'

"Both the UK and the Scottish governments need to start telling us, who is going to be in line for the vaccine? Will it be medical staff? It looks like this virus is not affecting older people. It looks like it is affecting younger people and it is those with underlying health problems, who are dying. So presumably they must be the ones that should be prioritised."

Dr Alan McDevitt, a Clydebank-based GP and the joint vice-chair of the BMA's Scottish GPs committee, said: "Most of us are concerned that the vaccine should be going to those who are most at risk and hopefully 50 per cent should cover that."

Dr McDevitt said doctors would be looking to give the vaccine to those with lung or liver diseases, children and pregnant women.

"The message seems to be that we need enough to cover the at-risk groups and those at risk from complications," Dr McDevitt said. "I think there should be enough for us before Christmas."

So far, seven people in Britain, including two Scots, have died with swine flu.

A Scottish Government spokesman said enough vaccine had been ordered to protect half the British population (30 million people).

"We are not assuming that the whole population is going to get swine flu," the spokesman said. "It would be highly unusual for that to happen. There is no evidence to suggest that swine flu is more virulent than normal seasonal flu."


SOME 1,377 swine flu cases have been identified so far in Scotland.

By the end of August, that figure is expected to rise to 10,000 a day north of the Border and 100,000 across the UK as a whole.

The first UK death was that of Jacqui Fleming, 38, from Glasgow, who contracted the H1N1 virus last month, two weeks after her son Jack was born 11 weeks prematurely. The baby also died, but he did not have the virus.

The second Scottish death was a 73-year-old man from Glasgow.

All of the British swine flu fatalities have suffered from other underlying illnesses.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that 94,000 people around the globe have contracted the disease. The worldwide death toll so far is 431.

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