Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Department of Health and Children
Question 586: To ask the Minister for Health and Children the position regarding the H1N1 immunisation programme; the categories of population that have been immunised to date in 2009; her plans for the further roll out of the immunisation programme; the consultations which she has had to date in 2009 with regard to all aspects of the immunisation programme with the Irish Medical Organisation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39048/09]
My Department and the Health Service Executive have been preparing for some years for the probability of an influenza pandemic. As part of these extensive preparations, a National Pandemic Preparedness Plan was published in January 2007. This plan was accompanied by an Expert Guidance document which has been updated in 2009. Upon receipt of the WHO declaration in April, this Plan was immediately put into operation.
Vaccination is a key strategy that is being used to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Every person in the country will be offered the vaccine. However, initially the vaccine is arriving in small quantities due to the demand for the vaccine worldwide. Ireland is not unique in the difficulties which we have been experiencing in sourcing the vaccine in the quantities which we would require. Obviously, therefore, vaccination will be prioritised to ensure those who require it most will be first to receive it. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee and the Pandemic Influenza Expert Group have advised that the vaccine should be given to the population in the following order of priority:
People with long term medical conditions aged between 6 months and 65 years and all pregnant women of more than 14 weeks gestation and for women six weeks post partum, i.e. the "clinically at risk" groups;
Health Care Workers;
Children between 6 months and 18 years of age;
Adults over 65 years of age;
The rest of the population.
It is generally agreed that the preferred option for the administration of the pandemic vaccine to people under 65 in the 'clinically at risk' groups is through general practice. GPs hold their medical records and are in a position to identify patients with underlying medical conditions for vaccination. It is estimated that there are approximately 410,000 people in this category. GPs have been receiving vaccine over the last two weeks and many patients have already been vaccinated. However, not all GPs are in a position to participate in the vaccination programme and the HSE has set up special vaccination clinics in order to vaccinate the "clinically at risk" patients of such GPs. A typical HSE vaccination clinic will comprise at least 1 doctor, 6 nurses and appropriate support staff. It will have the capacity to vaccinate up to 500 people a day but the numbers actually vaccinated at these clinics will clearly depend on the demand from the public for this service. The intention is to start vaccinating other priority groups, like health care workers and children, as soon as possible. However, depending on uptake, vaccine supplies and other factors, it could take 6 to 8 months to vaccinate the entire population.
The HSE has had consultations with the Irish Medical Organisation on the vaccination programme.