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H1N1 vaccine to be imported into NZ

Published: 4:34PM Monday July 06, 2009 Source: Newstalk ZB/OEN News

The government is spending millions of dollars to import a swine flu vaccination for front line health workers - even though it has not been licensed yet.

It has ordered 300,000 doses of the vaccine but it is unlikely to be available until December.

The targeted campaign aimed at supporting frontline services in health, emergency and other critical services.

Prime Minister John Key says that is enough to give 150,000 people the required two doses.

Key says it is important people at the frontline can feel safe.

He says he wants to be in a position of having the vaccine and not needing it, rather than the other way around.

Global demand for the vaccine is high and Key says it was important to get in quick and get enough for the priority group of New Zealanders.

The news comes as fears over swine flu rise, following news three New Zealanders have died from the illness.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says the vaccine have to be licensed by Medsafe in New Zealand before it's used.

Ryall says no swine flu vaccination has been licensed anywhere in the world but he expects the doses being bought to get the nod by December.

"What we've done, is taken public health officials recommendation to get the strategic stock in place for once it is licensed, and that's expected to be by December," says Ryall.

In the meantime, concerned calls are flooding into the Healthline call centre.

On Sunday, the phones rang 2,300 times.

The swine flu pandemic is expected to last for up to two years.

There are currently more than 1,000 people in New Zealand with the virus.