Schools on alert to carry out flu jab plan

PUBLISHED: 12:55 01 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:14 06 May 2010

Plans have been drawn up for mass vaccinations in the case of a flu epidemic

Plans have been drawn up for mass vaccinations in the case of a flu epidemic

A PLAN has been drawn up to carry out mass vaccinations if a flu epidemic strikes. In Bedfordshire the plan is advanced and three schools, Sandy Upper, Stratton, Biggleswade, and Samuel Whitbread, Shefford, will be used in any emergency to vaccinate an es

A PLAN has been drawn up to carry out mass vaccinations if a flu epidemic strikes.

In Bedfordshire the plan is advanced and three schools, Sandy Upper, Stratton, Biggleswade, and Samuel Whitbread, Shefford, will be used in any emergency to vaccinate an estimated 121,000 people.

The mass vaccination plan was unveiled last Thursday at a meeting of the Bedfordshire and Luton NHS joint scrutiny committee.

The report lists the procedures that would trigger the emergency vaccination plan.

"This document aims to guide professionals through the necessary steps in case of an outbreak of an infectious disease, with the potential of epidemic/pandemic proportions causing thousands of deaths," says the report.

"The response needs to be effective and it requires an adequate strategy. Responses are aimed at reducing mortality and minimising the risk of the outbreak spreading."

Such an operation would be in the hands of primary care trusts that would be responsible for the distribution and co-ordination of medical supplies, medical, nursing and administrative staff, facilities, security and support to facilitate and manage the operation.

Other support would come from the Health Protection Agency which would provide specialist support, guidance and advice with the entire operation coming under the control of an incident director and senior operational manager.

The report says the trigger that would set the operation in motion would come from the consultant in communicable disease control in consultation with the local director of public health, or where the incident is on a national basis the Department of Health or the regional director of public health.

Around 8,000 people a day would be expected to be vaccinated at the three schools in Mid Beds not just from the towns of Biggleswade, Sandy and Shefford but all the surrounding villages.

The flu pandemic would cause major disruption to the region and experts predict, says the report, a pandemic will occur.

"It could happen if avian flu combines with ordinary flu or the avian flu virus mutates. Then a completely new flu strain results that can be transmitted directly from one person to another," says the report.

"It hasn't happened yet but if it did, it would potentially cause a major public health problem. Few, if any, would have immunity to the new virus, allowing it to spread widely, easily and to cause more serious illness.

"Experts predict another pandemic will occur but cannot say exactly when.

"It is impossible to predict the impact of the next pandemic as the severity of the infection and the groups of people most vulnerable to infection are not known."

The report outlines general infection control measures such as advising sick people to stay at home and avoid contact with other people, cover nose and mouth with disposable one-use tissues when coughing, sneezing and nose blowing, washing hands after coughing or sneezing, keep hands away from mucous membranes of the eyes and nose, place alcohol gel at the entrance to health care areas.

In GP surgeries, people with symptoms would be told to stay in a separate waiting area, books and toys would be removed to minimise handling and telephone help should be encourages for patients who are not seriously ill or the use of NHS Direct.

Staff involved in the plan would get priority when it comes to vaccinations. These include community nursing staff, doctors, practice nurses, the PCT response team, school nurses, health visitors, the incident management team, tactical team and non-clinical support staff.

A spokesman for North Herts and Stevenage PCT said: "As in other areas of the country, agencies like the NHS, local councils and the police are working together to prepare robust plans in case of a flu epidemic. These plans are progressing well and are always being updated in light of new guidance from the Government and information received from the Health Protection Agency.

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