Page last updated at 17:41 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009

Swine flu vaccine for under-fives

Children are to be given the swine flu vaccination
The vaccination programme will move to pre-school age children

Children are to be targeted in the next phase of the swine flu vaccination programme in Scotland, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

She said about 260,000 children aged six months to five years will be offered the jab, with infection rates said to be high in this age group.

It comes as an adult NHS Lothian patient has died of H1N1, bringing the death toll in Scotland to 39.

The patient is said to have had underlying health issues.

It is expected children will be invited to attend their local GP practice to receive the vaccination, and the programme will last through December and into January once the initial priority groups have been vaccinated.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The decision has been made in line with independent scientific advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

"It is their advice which has guided us so far in all the decisions around the vaccination programme.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon said about 260,000 children would be vaccinated

"Advice from the JCVI is that young children are more at risk of contracting the virus and the highest rate of hospitalisations has been in the under-five age group, so that is the key consideration."

She added: "However, the vast majority of young children, in common with the rest of the population, have mild symptoms and they will recover relatively quickly, but we want to ensure that young children are fully protected against the virus."

The plan was confirmed by Ms Sturgeon as she presented the latest figures from Health Protection Scotland on swine flu.

They reveal:

  • A rate of GP consultations for flu-like illnesses - not necessarily H1N1 - across Scotland of 119.4 per 100,000. This is a small increase from last week's figure of 114.2
  • The number of community samples that tested positive for H1N1 is similar to last week at 43%
  • As of 16 November, there have been 969 people with H1N1 hospitalised since the start of the outbreak. A total of 128 people have required hospital admission in the last week and, as of Wednesday, there were 100 in hospital in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said: "This week's figures show a slight increase in the number of people consulting their GP with flu-like symptoms but a slight decrease in the total number of estimated cases and the number of positive samples.

"The trend to the figures is relatively stable this week, and although they can fluctuate, we are prepared for any possible rise in cases throughout winter.

"This will be helped when the full impact of the vaccination programme is felt."

The health secretary said the vaccination programme was well under way and urged everyone who is in the priority groups to accept the vaccine when invited to do so by their GP.

Scotland now has about 40% of the supplies it needs to vaccinate the priority groups, including pregnant women and frontline healthcare workers.

All GP practices now have some supplies of the vaccine.

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