July 12th, 2009
(Telegraph) – The NHS is preparing to vaccinate the entire population against swine flu.
It comes after an Essex man was confirmed on Friday as the first person without underlying health problems to have died from the virus.
A new vaccine could be ready in just five days and ministers predict that as many as 20 million people could be inoculated before the end of the year.
Ministers have secured up to 90 million doses of the vaccine, which is expected to arrive in Britain in the next few weeks, and the rest of the population is likely to be offered vaccinations next year.
The UK government has ordered enough vaccine to cover the entire population. GPs are being told to prepare for a nationwide vaccination campaign.
Peter Holden, the British Medical Association’s lead negotiator on swine flu, said GPs’ surgeries were ready for one of the biggest vaccination campaigns in almost 50 years.
“If this virus does [mutate], it can get a lot more nasty, and the idea is to give people immunity. But the sheer logistics of dealing with 60m people can’t be underestimated,” he said.
The health department said a vaccination programme would be drawn up based on expert advice.
Details of the inoculation plans emerged after the death of a patient, reportedly a middle-aged man, at a hospital in the Basildon area of Essex.
The victim had no underlying health problems, but officials say there is no evidence the swine flu virus had mutated into a more dangerous strain and that most people with the virus had only mild symptoms.