Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Schools may be centres to hand out flu vaccines

A senior health chief has revealed that the Department of Health has considered using schools in Northern Ireland as a base to administer hundreds of thousands of swine flu vaccines.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, acting Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland Dr Liz Mitchell said that as part of plans to tackle the predicted pandemic it has looked into transforming schools into swine flu vaccine stations.

It comes as reports suggested that millions of pupils across the UK would be vaccinated in a mass exercise within every school.

However both the Department of Health and Department of Education in Northern Ireland would not confirm whether this plan would be put into action in Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey had said the inoculation programme was due to be rolled out in September after the first batch of the drug was set to arrive this month ahead of a predicted pandemic.

Dr Mitchell said the vaccine will be delivered through primary care services.

“Obviously, that is the way we deal with the seasonal flu programme,” she said.

“This will be much more extensive obviously in terms of the population covered.

“People are used to going to the GP and we reckon that is the best way to do this.

“The other group we plan to immunise are frontline health and social care workers.”

When asked if schools would be used in the mass vaccination operation, Dr Mitchell said: “That is something we have considered.

“We feel at the moment that probably we wouldn’t be able to deliver it through that route.

“At the moment our emphasis is really on the primary care services.

“I’m not saying that we wouldn’t ever consider doing it through schools.

“You keep assessing, reviewing and change plans.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said possible delivery models for vaccination are being considered across the UK.

“Further announcements in relation to the roll-out of the vaccination programme by all four countries will be made in due course,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said decisions on any pandemic flu vaccination programme will be taken by health professionals.

“Schools and education authorities have been kept informed about emergency plans.”

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