Swine flu vaccines set to cost €90m

A SWINE flu vaccine is set to be purchased at a cost of almost €90 million andwill be first administered to those “most at risk” of infection.

As the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a global pandemic, a notice on the Government’s e-tenders website stated contracts were awarded to two Dublin-based pharmaceutical companies Baxter Healthcare andGlaxoSmithKline Ireland in May at a value of €88m.

According to the notice, posted last Friday, the “advance purchase agreement” will make arrangements for the “supply of human influenza vaccines here in the event of a pandemic”.

The Department of Health confirmed it should have “7.7 million treatments” available for distribution after the summer, to allow for two doses per person to be administered.

Vulnerable sections of the population, health workers and workers in essential public services will get the vaccine first, and it will then be offered to the wider population.

With the numbers suffering from the virus increasing daily – there were more than 60 confirmed cases yesterday – chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the vaccine will be offered to the entire population.

Dr Holohan said it was more likely the country would now see a lot more cases of swine flu as a result of Britain’s change of strategy. “When you consider the extent of travel between here and the UK, the very shift in policy there is likely to increase the number of imported cases into this country,” he said.

Dr Holohan warned that Ireland could be in the same position as Britain in a number of weeks.

But he added the country was well prepared relative to other European countries, with high stocks of anti-virals and an arrangement to ensure people will have access to the vaccine once its production begins.

The vaccinations are due to be made available by early August, though Dr Holohan cautioned that essential screenings and licensing may cause delays.

There is also concern that the present, relatively treatable virus may be followed by a more deadly strain in the winter months.

In Britain, the government warned that 100,000 people a day will contract the virus by the end of August. So far four people – all with underlying health conditions – have died there after contracting it.

Meanwhile, Harry Potter star Rupert Grint, 20, who plays Ron Weasley, has been struck down by the virus and ordered to stay away from the set of the latest Potter movie.

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