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€70m flu bill, but just one third of vaccine was used

SWINE flu cost the State €70m and only one third of the three million doses of ordered vaccines were actually administered.

A new report from the Department of Health reviewing the swine flu pandemic recommends that a future plan should be more flexible in line with the severity of the problem, rather than focusing on "worst case" scenarios.

Breaking down the cost of the swine flu pandemic the report shows that just under €30m was spent on anti-viral medication, €35m on vaccines, €6.5m on equipment like ventilators and dialysis machines for hospital intensive care units and €805,000 on communication costs.

The report says that during the swine flu pandemic the number of people falling ill, admitted to hospital and dying "fell well below even the lower range" expected.

Over 1,000 cases of confirmed swine flu victims were hospitalised during the pandemic and 100 people were admitted to intensive care units – 76 adults and 24 children.

Children in the 0-4 age group had the highest rate of hospital admissions.

There were 29 deaths and all but two of these were in 'at risk' groups and most had other underlying medical conditions.

The report of the pandemic review group says a key need is to ensure a future plan allows a response which can meet the differing demands of a milder or more severe pandemic.

It recommends regular tests of any future plan to make sure all emergency response groups have clear roles and there is no duplication.

MAXIMUM

It also calls for a dedicated information manager to co-ordinate key information from all relevant sources and suggests social media should be included in communication strategies to reach the maximum number of people.

More than 1.75 million doses of vaccine were distributed to GPs, HSE hospitals, health centres and other site and over 1.1 million vaccinations were given which was a 25pc uptake for the total population.

The review group says "the department and the HSE provided strong leadership during the pandemic which generated a positive response from society as a whole. The pandemic was well managed overall."

The report called for the development of chronic disease registers so numbers at risk can be measured.

csheehy@herald.ie


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