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Statement from Health Minister following further swine flu related deaths

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey has said that he terribly saddened to hear of three further swine flu related deaths in Northern Ireland.

A young girl sadly passed away today under the care of the Paediatric Team in the Western Trust area. Swine flu was a contributory factor but not the primary cause of death.

A 62 year old male has also died in a hospital in Northern Ireland. He was confirmed as having swine flu but it was not the cause of death.

A third patient with swine flu and other complex health issues has also died in hospital.

The Minister said: "This is tragic news and I would like express my sincere and deepest sympathies to each of the families. My thoughts are with them at this very sad time for them. We should all now respect the privacy of the families involved who are grieving for their loved ones.

"Today I have launched the swine flu vaccination programme which is our best defence against swine flu. It will protect the most vulnerable in our society and I would encourage everyone to get it when it is offered. Protect yourself, protect those at risk and get the vaccine.

"After discussions with the Chief Medical Officer, I have decided that we must ensure children in special schools for severe learning disability are prioritised as a matter of urgency - they are particularly vulnerable. Arrangements will be made to vaccinate these children starting tomorrow and Friday. Other children with special needs and underlying physical health conditions who are not in special schools for children with severe learning disability will quickly be identified and offered vaccine by their GPs."

Notes to editors:

1. The clinical priority groups for the swine flu vaccination programme were identified by the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). They are prioritised as they are at greatest risk of complications if they become infected with swine flu, and hence the initial focus on protecting individuals in these groups.

The clinical risk groups, in order of priority are:

  • Individuals aged six months and up to 65 years in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at risk groups;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Household contacts of immunocompromised individuals;
  • People aged 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at risk groups.

Health and social care staff will also be amongst the first to offered to vaccine.

2. Further information on the clinical risk groups for the H1N1 swine flu vaccination programme is available to download from the DHSSPS website and nidirect.

3. The Northern Ireland swine flu helpline number 0800 0514 142 is a freephone helpline for those who want more information about swine flu. Textphone 18001 0800 0 514 142. The UK-wide flu information line on 0800 1 513 513 provides regularly updated advice on swine flu. This is also a freephone number.

4. Further information about swine flu can be found on the DHSSPS website and nidirect.

5. Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0575. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.