THE question of whether people will be charged by GPs to administer the human swine flu vaccine has not yet been discussed, it emerged yesterday.
While the vaccine is free to private patients, there is still a question mark as to whether they will be charged by their GP to administer it.
Head of population health with the Health Service Executive, Dr Pat Doorley, said the health authority was coming to an agreement with the Irish College of General Practitioners on the delivery of the programme.
He stressed, however, that no discussion whatsoever had taken place with the college on the question of an administration fee.
“It just hasn’t been discussed,” Dr Doorley stressed.
Deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health and Children, Dr John Devlin, said a number of “practical issues” in the delivery of a mass vaccination programme were still a matter of discussion.
“We are looking at all issues around the logistics,” he said at a press conference in Government Buildings yesterday.
Dr Devlin said their best estimation was that the vaccination programme would start next month, probably mid-month, or a week or two earlier.
While small quantities of the vaccine against the H1N1 virus are in the country, they are not yet in the possession of the HSE.
Dr Doorley said health staff would be the first to receive the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the number of new cases of human swine flu diagnosed by GPs remains stable, according to latest figures from the department.
About 1,500 people were diagnosed with suspected swine flu in Ireland in the past week.
The rate at the end of last month was 33.7 per 100,000 of the population, still well below the peak seasonal flu rate of 120 per 100,000.
Dr Devlin pointed out that 84% of people who had contracted human swine flu were under 35 years but the illness was mild for the vast majority of cases.
To date, 82 people have been hospitalised and, of these, 20 remain in hospital. Four people are in intensive care.
No new fatalities have been reported.
Dr Darina O’Flanagan, director of the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said there had been a fall in the number of people contacting the out-of-hours GP co-ops complaining of a flu-like illnesses.
Dr O’Flanagan said they were expecting an autumn or winter wave of the disease.
Meanwhile, a trial of 100 healthy volunteers in Britain found that just a single dose of the swine flu vaccine produced a strong immune response.
After one dose, 80% of subjects were protected against swine flu and more than 90% were protected after two doses, according to the drug manufacturer, Novartis, who said the vaccine was well tolerated.
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