Flu jabs campaign starts with health workers

Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, launched a mass immunisation programme against swine flu yesterday, with a call to frontline health and social care workers to get themselves vaccinated against the virus.

Mr Burnham praised the leadership of healthcare staff at University College Hospital in London, as they lined up to receive the vaccinations. "The people today who are volunteering are showing real leadership, they are sending a clear message out to people working in the health service that it is the right thing to do," Mr Burnham said.

He added: "We are one of the first countries in the world to launch a vaccination programme and we are looking ahead to a very difficult winter in the NHS. There is still seasonal flu around and we have the added challenge of H1N1 swine flu, so it is very necessary, and the programme we are launching today will prevent suffering and in some cases, deaths. So it is very, very, important."

About 2 million frontline health and social care workers will be offered the vaccine, as they are classified as at increased risk of infection and of transmitting the infection to susceptible patients. The programme will be extended over the coming weeks, with GP surgeries receiving deliveries from Monday.