Swine flu vaccine

Kingston GPs refuse swine flu vaccine

6:50am Thursday 5th November 2009

By David Lindsell »

A leading Kingston GP has said he may not take the swine flu vaccination because it “has been rushed out” but has advised vulnerable patients to have the free jab.

As many as 22,000 people identified as high-risk including pensioners, pregnant women and cancer patients in Kingston will start to receive letters over the next few weeks from GPs to arrange vaccinations against the pandemic.

A further 3,900 frontline NHS and social care staff including nurses, doctors, and care home workers will also be offered the vaccination as part of the first wave of injections.

The number of cases is expected to rise after a summer lull when only 2,000 people collected Tamiflu for swine flu.

Doctors and nurses have been urged to take the injection amid fears many NHS staff will refuse because they believe the vaccine has not been properly tested.

But Dr Jeremy Harris, chairman of the Kingston and Richmond Local Medical Committee and who described himself as a needle-phobic, said he would wait and see.

He said: “I’m considering my options. I think there may be some issues about how extensively it has been tested.

“I’m not in any at-risk group. We are all aware that the vaccine has been rushed out.

“But there’s no doubt that people at risk should have the vaccine.”

But Dr Jonathan Hildebrand, director of public health for NHS Kingston, said the jab was safe.

He said: “The vaccine has been rigorously tested and is the best line of defence against this virus so I would strongly urge all of those in the priority groups to have the vaccine.

“The swine flu vaccine does not provide protection against seasonal flu, so patients who normally get the seasonal flu jab will still need to have that separately.”

A spokesman said in order to be licensed the vaccine must be safe and said a question and answerleaflet would be handed out by GPs to patients on its safety.

Nobody has been hospitalised or died from swine flu so far - despite worst case scenarios predicting 155 people dying from the pandemic.

Dr Michael Barry, of private Coombe Medical Practice, said after weighing up the pros and cons neither he, his wife or children would take the vaccine and admitted his refusal could damage the public health message NHS Kingston was trying to spread.

He said: “I don’t think it is irresponsible. I think it is responsible and I think it is not totally honest with your patients not to declare your own status.

“I think it will have a knock-on effect as I think they want GPs not only to support it but take it as well. I think quite a lot of GPs will not be having it.”
The at-risk patients:

• Pregnant women

• Household contacts of people with compromised immune systems, eg people in regular close contact with patients on treatment for cancer

• People aged 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups. This does not include otherwise healthy over 65-year-olds, as they appear to have some natural immunity to the virus.

Source: Kingston NHS