German ministers have agreed on further swine flu precautions to tackle an expected surge in the number of infected people in the colder seasons.
German health authorities are gearing up for an expected surge in swine flu cases
Germany's 16 state health ministers on Tuesday agreed on a plan to order some 50 million units of flu vaccine units. That's enough to immunize 25 million people against the H1N1 swine flu - a person has to be injected twice in order for the vaccine to be effective. Together with current vaccine supplies against the H1N1 virus, the health ministers say they will have enough vaccines to provide protection for 30 percent of the German population.
The ministers will next develop a coordinated plan of action. This includes drawing up a priority list of those eligible to receive H1N1 flu vaccine shots and making sure that insurance companies pay for the flu shots. Health workers, the aged, pregnant and chronically ill people are expected to be immunized first.
Infection surge just months away
"We need to be ready for an expected increase in the rate of infections in autumn and winter," said Juergen Banzer, the health minister for the state of Hesse.
The health ministers said they would also seek expert opinion before making any final decisios, but added they would follow recommendations made by the World Health Organisation.
In a report issued on Monday, the WHO warned that the spread of swine flu was unstoppable. The Geneva-based UN global health body recommended that health care workers should get priority access to H1N1 flu vaccinations, but that individual countries should then decide who would be next in line for the vaccine.
"The (group of experts) recommended first that healthcare workers should be immunized in all countries in order to retain a functional health system as the virus evolves," said Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO director of the Initiative for Vaccine Research.
Not enough vaccine for all countries
There will not be enough vaccine to meet the need for wealthy and poorer nations, warned World Health Organisation (WHO) chief, Margaret Chan.
"Manufacturing capacity for influenza vaccines is finite and woefully inadequate for a world of 6.8 billion people, nearly half of whom are susceptible to infection by this entirely new and highly contagious virus," she said.
She said said that poverty will prevent some countries from gaining access to swine flu vaccines and urged pharmaceutical companies to produce as much vaccine as quickly as possible.
727 cases of swine flu have been reported in Germany, none were fatal. Authorities fear a mutation of the swine flu virus, could prove deadly.
Editor: Neil King