Swine flu vaccine is safe and should be taken, Cambs health chiefs insist

THE swine flu vaccine is safe and should be taken by all those to whom it is offered, health chiefs insist. The first doses of the one-shot inoculation will be delivered to hospitals on Wednesday (October 21) with GPs getting supplies from next Monday. Wi

THE swine flu vaccine is safe and should be taken by all those to whom it is offered, health chiefs insist.

The first doses of the one-shot inoculation will be delivered to hospitals on Wednesday (October 21) with GPs getting supplies from next Monday.

With clinicians in Northamptonshire reportedly reluctant to be inoculated, NHS East of England is urging doctors and nurses in Cambridgeshire and the other five counties of the East to have the jab to protect themselves, their families and their patients.

Front-line clinical staff are particularly vulnerable to catching the disease and passing it on to their families and other patients, Dr Linda Sheridan, NHS East of England's director of flu resilience, told The Hunts Post yesterday.


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"If you can't catch it, you can't pass it on, so it's vitally important that they protect themselves," she said. "Staff are more vulnerable than the general public because of their contact, and we need them to keep the NHS running.

"Staff are very value-driven. They want to do a good job and protect their vulnerable patients. But a lot of people think they won't catch it."

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And she urged those in vulnerable groups identified as priorities for the H1N1 swine flu - in some cases not the same as those prone to seasonal flu - to have the jab when it is offered. They include people with a serious underlying illness and pregnant women.

Dr Sheridan said that not only was the new vaccine safe for pregnant women and would provide immunity from infection within a week, but it had been tested on pregnant women in clinical trials. The vaccine is successful in protecting more than 90 per cent of those who had the jab - a very high success rate for immunisation, she said.

Two vaccines are available. The first, which will be most widely used, is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and usually provides immunity within a week. The other, made by a firm called Baxter, requires two jabs three weeks apart, so is not fully effective for four weeks, Dr Sheridan said. But it is suitable for people with egg allergies, while the GSK vaccine is grown on an egg substrate.

"It has been through a rigorous licensing process and is being used across the whole of Europe. It's highly effective."

Those who have not already had their seasonal flu jab can safely have both at the same time - but in different arms. "You'll need both to be fully protected from flu this winter," Dr Sheridan said. And even those who have or have had flu already should have the jab.

"Even if you think you have already had swine flu, it is still important you get vaccinated as there are many flu viruses circulating and you may have had one of the seasonal flu viruses rather than the H1N1 virus. A seasonal H3N3 virus is circulating at the moment."

Nonetheless, some people have an acquired immunity to the swine flu virus - particularly those who have suffered the illness in the past year and some older people who caught it in a previous epidemic half a century ago.

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