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Northern Ireland has sufficient stocks of swine flu vaccine

By Elaine Loughlin

As swine flu vaccine doses dwindle throughout the UK, Northern Ireland’s health agencies have moved to reassure the public that they have enough stocks.

Cases of swine flu have spiked in the past week and over 40% of beds in Northern Ireland’s hospitals are now occupied by patients with flu symptoms.

The Department of Health has admitted that some areas in the UK are experiencing local supply issues but said there was no national shortage.

Chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board John Crompton said there was no problem with local supplies.

“I am aware and have heard there are some difficulties in England with vaccines but there are no problems with vaccines in Northern Ireland.

“We are in close contact with all primary care teams to make sure that they have adequate supplies of vaccines.

“We have well-established protocols around shifting vaccines between surgeries where there is a short-term problem but I don’t anticipate that we will have any problems with vaccinations in Northern Ireland,” he said.

A spokesman for the HSCB said 66.5% of over 65s had received the swine flu vaccination by the end of November 2010, while 56.4% of the under 65 at risk group had been vaccinated.

“These figures are marginally down from this time last year but it’s hard to know what the reasons for this are.

“You could attribute it to the fact that swine flu peaked in July 2009, so when the seasonal flu vaccination started in the Autumn of 2009, people were more aware and went and got vaccinated,” he said.

Dr Richard Smithson, consultant in communicable disease control for the Public Health Agency, said that distribution was being carefully managed.

“As vaccines are ordered |and delivered on a daily basis, GPs will always be able to |obtain sufficient amounts of |vaccines to meet the needs of |their patients.”

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