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Health workers line up for vaccine

Published: 6:11PM Wednesday February 03, 2010 Source: ONE News

The vaccine to protect New Zealanders from swine flu has arrived in the country and will be rolled out in a pre-emptive strike to counter a potential pandemic.

The virus killed 20 people in New Zealand last winter and has claimed more than 14,000 lives worldwide so far.

Doctors, nurses and health workers are the first in line for protection against the deadly virus. They will get one shot now and another in three weeks to get maximum protection against swine flu if it arrives early from the northern hemisphere winter.

Last winter 10% of swine flu patients who wound up in intensive care were pregnant women and midwife Tina Hewitt was among the first to get the jab.

"It was surprising last year (pregnant women) got hit so hard. Usually you expect it's the old and the sick that are going to be more vulnerable," says Hewitt.

The vaccination programme will be a two stage national roll-out.

The first stage in February is a stand-alone swine flu vaccine for health workers, pregnant women, those with chronic and respiratory illness and some children under five.

In March and April the same vaccine will be available to everyone through GPs.

The campaign involves a total of more than one million doses, with access to more if needed.

Dr Mark Jacobs from the Ministry of Health says he expects "the demand will be able to be met".

The Ministry of Health will not say how much the vaccination scheme is costing, citing commercial sensitivities.

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