GPs face 'largest ever' flu campaign

Exclusive - Practices prepare to deliver swine flu jabs alongside seasonal flu vaccines.

GP leaders are negotiating the profession's role in one of the UK's largest-ever vaccination campaigns, as practices prepare to deliver swine flu jabs alongside seasonal flu vaccines.

The first doses of (A)H1N1 vaccine will be available in August, with production increasing over the autumn and continuing for the next 12 months.

Two jabs given three weeks apart are required for protection. A total of 60 million doses will be available by the end of the year, enough for GPs to vaccinate half the population of England.

Dr Peter Holden, GPC lead negotiator for pandemic flu, said the GPC was discussing with the DoH how to manage the vaccination programme.

He said the GPC was seeking additional funding: 'We require all our costs to be covered, but it is not just an issue of money.

'We are discussing the practical issues and whether the vaccine has been licensed.'

Last week, a letter from Dr David Salisbury, DoH director of immunisation, was sent to PCTs informing them of the priority groups for vaccination.

These include pregnant women in their second and third trimester, children aged three to 16, patients aged 65 and over and GPs.

Eventually the entire UK population will receive two doses of the swine flu vaccine.

In addition, GPs will be expected to carry out the seasonal flu vaccination programme from this September. The DoH has commissioned research to determine whether swine flu and seasonal flu jabs can be administered at the same time.

If they cannot, some patients will need to visit their GP three times for full flu protection.

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP spokesman for immunisation, warned that a swine flu vaccination programme coupled with a seasonal flu programme would pose an 'enormous challenge to primary care'.

'I have been in general practice for 30 years and I cannot remember us ever having a campaign of this magnitude.'

Dr Holden said patients should not be invited for vaccination until vaccine supplies are in place.

'PCTs will have to bolster their courier systems and contract work to courier companies, and PCTs may have to purchase more fridges as fridges get full with the flu supplies.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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