Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 17:21 UK

Deal reached over swine flu jabs

By Nick Triggle
Health reporter, BBC News

Flu vaccine
Vaccinations are expected to start next month

A deal has been reached between the government and GPs over the swine flu vaccination programme.

Ministers have agreed to pay doctors £5.25 per jab after weeks of talks.

It means GPs will be ready to start immunising as soon as the vaccines are licensed, which could be as early as the beginning of next month.

About 14m people in the UK, including those with health problems and pregnant women, are earmarked for the first wave of the vaccination programme.

The government has yet to decide whether the whole population will get the jab.

Talks

The British Medical Association has argued during the negotiations that they would need to cover staff and admin costs as well as the overtime they may need to do.

However, they always accepted they would be getting less than the £7.51 they are paid for seasonal flu and other jabs such as travel inoculations because it could end up being a mass vaccination scheme.

Doctors have also been given a bit of leeway over their access targets - guaranteeing appointments within 48 hours as well as advanced bookings - if they achieve high immunisation rates.

Under the programme put forward, people with health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems and frontline health and social care workers will be the first to receive the jab.

This amounts to 14m - about a fifth of the UK population - and is similar in number to who get seasonal flu, although pregnant women are not included in that programme.

The vaccine is the best line of defence against the virus and I would strongly urge all of those in the at-risk groups to have the vaccine
Andy Burnham, health secretary

Indeed, the hope is that the swine flu jab can be administered at the same time as seasonal flu, which is getting under way in the next few weeks.

The government has signed contracts with two manufacturers for 132m doses of the vaccine.

This was done when it was believed two doses would be needed, although trials from one of the drug companies indicate one may be enough.

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the agreement was "great news for patients".

"The vaccine is the best line of defence against the virus and I would strongly urge all of those in the at-risk groups to have the vaccine."

And he added: "The deal represents good value for money as the vaccine programme will reduce the number of people who will need hospital treatment."

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said: "This will be a lot of additional work for practices, but general practice is used to running large vaccination programmes.

"We are confident that GPs and their teams will have the resources they need in order to run the swine flu vaccination programme smoothly and efficiently."



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