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Majority of health workers have not had swine flu jab

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Low uptake amongst healthcare workers for the swine flu jab. Photo: Press Association

Low uptake amongst healthcare workers for the swine flu jab. Photo: Press Association

Low uptake amongst healthcare workers for the swine flu jab. Photo: Press Association

FEWER than one in five healthcare workers have received the swine flu jab, despite the death toll now standing at 22.

The Irish Independent has also learned that take-up of the vaccine in some hospitals is less than 10pc.

Nurses administering the vaccine have reported that take-up among HSE medical staff has been particularly low, although a greater number of health workers in the community -- such as home help and care workers -- have availed of it.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has confirmed that "less than 30,000" healthcare workers have received the vaccine. There are 111,000 HSE workers, including administration staff and management. However, the number vaccinated includes general healthcare workers, of which there are an estimated further 50,000.

This means that fewer than one in five workers have had the jab, and it's an even smaller percentage for frontline staff.

Last night, an HSE spokeswoman said it was continuing to encourage staff and the public to get vaccinated.

She said that while take-up in some regions may be low, it's "over 50pc" in others. "We have found that in hospitals that have been dealing with cases of swine flu, staff are very aware of the impact the virus has on patients," she said.

"As a result, the uptake among staff is much higher. We'd like to reiterate why it's so important to get it. We're looking at as high an uptake as possible."

She also appealed to those who are particularly vulnerable -- including children, pregnant women, those with underlying medical conditions and those over 65 -- to get the vaccine.

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However, Dr Juliet Bressan, a Dublin-based doctor, said many GPs feel they are immune and are not getting the jab.

"GPs are very reluctant to take any vaccine but we don't really know why," she said.

She added that her husband caught the virus a few months ago but she didn't -- despite not getting the jab, and she has no intention of having it.

According to Dr Bresson, there was a similar virus outbreak in 1968 and therefore, she claimed, people born before then are probably immune.

"Most people don't have the medical knowledge to know whether they really need it or not," she said. "But GPs can make a scientific calculation."

She added that the purpose of vaccinating healthcare workers was not to protect them but to stop the virus spreading.

Figures released last night by the Department of Health reported that two more people have died from swine flu but the number contracting the disease continues to fall.

The death of a girl and a woman in the past week has brought the total number of deaths here from H1N1 to 22.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan yesterday expressed his condolences to the families of the woman, who was from the east of the country, and the girl, who was from the west.

Both had underlying health problems -- a feature in all but one of the deaths from the disease.

There are 152 people in hospital being treated, nine of whom are in intensive care.

However, the number of people contracting swine flu has dropped in the last week, said Dr Holohan.

In Northern Ireland, a nine-year-old child has died from the virus. The victim had underlying health conditions and died within the past few days.

Dr Joan Gilvarry, from the Irish Medicines Board, said more than 500,000 people have been vaccinated in the Republic -- with 790 reports of adverse reactions.


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