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Who will be first to get vaccine?

Fergus Walsh | 16:05 UK time, Friday, 3 July 2009

Department of Health noticeA lot of people have asked who will be the first to get immunised against H1N1 swine flu.

A letter sent to immunisation co-ordinators last week gives a long list of priority groups.

But it's not clear whether the list is in descending order of priority; it is all rather vague. Some GP surgeries, I'm told, are seeking clarification. See if you can work what it all means from this section:

Until further decisions on prioritisation are made, plans should be made to deliver vaccine to the following groups: Individuals aged between six months and 65 years in the current seasonal flu clinical risk groups. Pregnant women in their second and third trimester Health and social care workers directly involved in patient care. Other health and social care workers Children aged from 3 years to 16 years of age. People aged 65 years and over Poultry workers All others not in the above groups. Until decisions on the order of vaccination of priority groups are made, NHS organisations will need to ensure robust plans are in place to ensure vaccine could be offered to all these groups.

It's interesting that poultry workers but not pig farmers are mentioned. And there's another bit of confusion that I'm hearing about. Some NHS staff apparently thought that the H1N1 immunisation programme would be instead of - rather than in addition to - the regular seasonal flu campaign. It's not.

There's a very important public health message here for the NHS and for the public. Vaccination against seasonal flu this autumn will continue as normal. H1N1 swine flu vaccination is an add-on.

That means a lot of work for immunisation teams. They will have their regular at-risk groups and the over 65s for seasonal flu. They will also be giving H1N1 swine flu vaccine to at-risk groups, but not (initially) to the elderly.

Is there scope for confusion this autumn? You bet.

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