Search site

Government Initiatives

Renewable Energy E-Gaming E-Commerce New Residents

Swine Flu Vaccinations Update - November 2009

GPs will be inviting under-5s to receive the Swine Flu vaccine from the beginning of next week.

The States Influenza Pandemic Expert Advisory Group decided last week to recommend the extension of the island's vaccination programme for children aged from six months up to five years.

The vaccine will be offered through GP surgeries. They will write to patients from this week to invite them to make an appointment.

Young patients will be over six months and under five years as at 1 December 2009 (the day the UK is due to start its child vaccination programme).

The swine flu vaccine is offered in two half doses, three weeks apart, for this age group, and there will be charges for administering the vaccine of £10.65 on each occasion.

The under-5s have been selected for vaccination as scientific evidence has highlighted a small, but higher risk of hospitalisation than for other age groups among those children who contract the virus.

Director of Public Health Dr Stephen Bridgman said:

'Our vaccination programme is progressing well and we have sufficient vaccine stocks. The GPs are reporting that they are very busy dealing with flu-like illness and the ongoing vaccinations and so we have decided to invite people to come forward.

'Please wait for your invitation from your doctor rather than contacting them directly, although we are confident that will be fairly soon.'

Dr Bridgman said that the vaccination of people considered to be high risk was coming to a conclusion. People who believed that they should be classified as higher risk, but had not received an invitation - particularly those who normally receive the winter flu jab, could now approach GP surgeries to receive the vaccine if they wished.

The recent rise in cases of flu-like illness has had a knock-on impact at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital. A number of patients have failed to show for outpatient appointments, and the hospital is asking people who are missing appointments due to illness to telephone to cancel.

20th November

Swine flu vaccine is to be offered to under five-year-olds in Guernsey within the next few weeks.

Following the UK Government's decision to extend the vaccination programme yesterday, the States Influenza Pandemic Expert Advisory Group today agreed to do the same for children aged from six months up to five years.

'In most cases this is a mild to moderate illness, but the scientific evidence has highlighted a small risk of hospitalisation in a small number of previously healthy under-5s,' said Director of Public Health Dr Stephen Bridgman.

'Our priority vaccination programme is proceeding well. Our next move is to order further stocks of vaccine and then we will roll out the next phase to this age group.'

The scientific evidence has highlighted a risk of hospitalisation in a small number of previously healthy under-5s.

It has not been decided yet whether the vaccine will be offered through community sessions or through GP surgeries. Dr Bridgman said that this would be agreed in due course.

Parents are advised not to request early vaccination before further announcements are made.

Under-fives considered to be in the higher-risk category are already being offered the vaccine.

Further evidence of swine flu and flu-like illness circulating in the island emerged today. More than 300 people (305) with flu-like symptoms have seen a doctor so far this week - almost double the previous peak in July.

There have been more cases tested under the surveillance regime this week which have returned positive for swine flu.

17th November

Some Island schools are continuing to experience high levels of absence among pupils through flu-like illness. Staff absence is currently low.

In the States maintained primary sector some 368 out of 3745 (9.8%) pupils are currently absent with 413 out of 2820 (14.6%) absent in the States maintained secondary sector. Not all are absent through flu-like illnesses and in many schools absence levels are on a par with previous years.

Some schools are affected more than others with La Mare de Carteret High and La Mare de Carteret Primary Schools currently experiencing the highest levels of pupil absence; La Mare de Carteret Primary School currently has 88 pupils out of 258 absent (34%) with 5 staff also off, La Mare de Carteret High has around 200 of its 531 pupils (37.6%) absent plus 7 staff.

All schools will continue to remain open while there are sufficient staff to ensure that they can operate safely.

The Department is monitoring absence levels on a daily basis and the local media will be informed of any escalation of the situation at the earliest opportunity.

Parents are asked to follow the advice of the Department of Public Health with regard to keeping pupils off school if they display any flu-like symptoms.

The Influenza Pandemic Expert Group discussed the rise in illness in schools at a scheduled meeting today.

It confirmed advice that children displaying symptoms of swine flu, particularly a high temperature, were recommended to stay off school for seven days. Children displaying severe symptoms or who failed to improve after a couple of days, were recommended to see a doctor, who could prescribe them anti-viral drugs.

Children with usual cold symptoms should be kept off school until they were feeling better, as parents would usually do.

It was agreed that the levels of illness being seen in some schools were likely to indicate a rise in cases of swine flu in the island. But of nine samples tested of patients with flu-like illness in the past week, only two were confirmed as the H1N1 virus, indicating that there are a variety of viruses circulating in the community.
Numbers of people seeing their doctor with flu-like illnesses increased markedly in the past week.

The take up of vaccine by high risk groups is going well, but Director of Public Health Dr Stephen Bridgman recommended that people who had been invited for vaccination should take up the offer. He also restated the need to continue good hygiene precautions.

The group will continue to monitor the situation.

16th November

Parents of children due to take an 11-plus examination tomorrow [Tuesday 17 November] have been advised not to send their children to school if they are not well.

The Education Department have written to some parents today, through schools, following high numbers of pupils - and in some cases, teachers - staying at home today with illness. Flu-like illness and colds were widely reported at some establishments, though not all schools are understood to be affected.

A spokesman for the Education Department said:

'No parent should be obliged to send their child to school if the child is feeling unwell, especially if the only reason they are being sent into school is to undertake the 11-plus exams.

'Parents should be reassured there will be an opportunity for any child to sit any missed exams at a later date.'

Education will continue to monitor sickness levels in schools.

'Obviously we will need to monitor the situation to see how big the problem becomes,' the spokesman added.

The Health and Social Services Department's Influenza Pandemic Expert Group is due to meet with Education officers at a scheduled meeting tomorrow, when sickness levels at schools will be among the issues discussed.

5th November

Guernsey doctors are starting to see an increase in the numbers of patients with flu-like illness as they commence vaccination of 'high risk' islanders.
The island stopped swabbing all suspected cases some months ago but doctors have reported a near doubling of patients seen with flu-like illness in the past week to about 60.

A restricted testing regime has been running, which has seen a handful of cases confirmed in the past week.

In all, just 6% (22 cases) of all swabs sent to laboratories in the UK for tests since June have come back positive.

First stocks of the swine flu vaccine arrived in the island last week, a further 5,500 doses arrived again this week and more are expected. The Expert Flu Pandemic Team, headed by Director of Public Health Dr Stephen Bridgman, will consider extending the vaccination programme beyond the initial priority cases - people with long-term conditions, those with compromised immune systems through illness or treatment, their close contacts, and pregnant women - over the coming weeks.

Currently Guernsey is not recommending vaccination for children who do not qualify under the high risk criteria, as per UK policy.

Dr Bridgman said that he and the expert group were keeping a close watch on UK policy, the extent of the increase in illness in the community and also remaining aware of the need to be cost-effective.

Dr Bridgman added that he was aware that some concerns had been raised about swine flu vaccines.

He said that the vaccines had been made under the same process used to make seasonal flu vaccines, which have a good safety record, and tests had been carried out on the vaccines which had been licensed for use.

Vaccination is not compulsory, but is being recommended, particularly to those in the high risk groups.

The vaccine does not give the patient swine flu. There have been reports of people feeling ill after receiving it. Side-effects such as mild fever, swelling and soreness at the point of the injection, and general aches and pains are often seen with vaccines.

Travel advice from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be followed.