Page last updated at 07:01 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Swine flu drugs ordering service is closed down

Swine flu vaccines
Millions of swine flu vaccines were bought in preparation

The National Pandemic Flu Service, set up to dispense drugs to patients in England without the need to see doctors, has closed down.

The closure - at 0100 GMT - came after a sharp decline in the number of cases of the H1N1 swine flu virus.

Health officials said the hotline and website could be restored in seven days should the situation change.

But parents with young children are still being advised to have them immunised against the disease.

At its peak, 40,000 people a week received antivirals through the National Pandemic Flu Service.

But the figure has now fallen to below 5,000 a week.

About five million of the 90 million doses of antiviral drugs that were made available were actually dispensed.

The virus may not be around at the moment but it could come back
Sir Liam Donaldson
Chief Medical Officer for England

England was the only part of the UK to use the system, which allowed people to get Tamiflu by answering a series of tick-box questions.

Anyone who thinks they have flu can still check their symptoms online.

If they still have concerns they can contact NHS Direct (NHS24 in Scotland) or call their GP.

Chief Medical Officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson has repeated his call for parents of children aged six months to under five to have them immunised - even though cases of swine flu are very low.

He said: "The virus may not be around at the moment but it could come back".

However, Sir Liam denied the government had over-reacted.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, a GP from London, agreed vulnerable groups were still at risk.

She said: "Elderly people who have other medical conditions, young people, children under five, and pregnant women do seem to have been really disproportionately represented in the people who've had really nasty complications.

"So the question is - the risk is probably quite small now, but would you ever forgive yourself if your child didn't have the vaccination and ended up getting the infection and getting a really nasty complication?"

An announcement is expected in around 10 days regarding what the government will do with its remaining stocks of vaccine.

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