The UK papers are full of stories this morning with bits and pieces of the new pandemic plan unveiled today by the Department of Health. Here, in their own words, is the plan as presented on the Government News Network site.
Thursday 22 November 2007 13:10
Department of Health (National)
Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, today published a new plan to increase preparedness and better protect the public against a possible flu pandemic.
A new clinical countermeasures strategy has been developed to offer increased protection against the effects of a flu pandemic if a 'worst case scenario' happened. Commenting on the plans, the WHO has again stated that the UK is in the vanguard of countries worldwide in preparing for a pandemic.
The Department has already signed agreements with two pharmaceutical companies to supply enough pandemic specific vaccine for the entire population once the pandemic strain has been identified.
The new countermeasures include plans to:
- Double the stock of antivirals to cover at least 50 per cent of the population
- Buy 14.7 million courses of antibiotics to cover at risk groups
- Purchase 350million surgical masks and 34m respirators for NHS and social care staff on the frontline.
The Government also has an existing stockpile of 3.3 million doses of H5N1 pre-pandemic vaccine for healthcare workers and will be considering all the latest scientific evidence in relation to future decisions on pre-pandemic vaccines.
Alan Johnson said:
"The threat of an influenza pandemic remains real. Whilst it is not possible to predict its timing or severity, the top priority for the Government is to do all we possibly can to protect the public. Our arrangements are kept constantly under review, ensuring we keep abreast of emerging expert evidence and advice.
"Our new plans provide the first national blueprint for the UK's response to a pandemic flu. We are strengthening our countermeasures to ensure we have the necessary vaccines, antibiotics and antivirals to protect the population if the worst were to happen.
"We know a pandemic would have significant social and economic impact as well as a serious effect on the health of the population. A thorough and integrated response is therefore critical to lessening its overall effect.
"We have spent several years developing and testing plans with front line service providers and listening to expert national and international advice on how best to prepare the country and will continue to do that as new evidence or medical advances emerge. "
Alongside the countermeasures a new National Flu Pandemic Framework, which coordinates the responses of all government departments, regional assemblies and all public and private bodies, will set out how the UK will respond if a flu pandemic occurs.
The Framework will help public and private organisations to be as prepared as possible for a pandemic and make sure their arrangements are resilient enough to cope
Although previous pandemics during the last century have resulted in infection rates at or around 25 per cent, the new plans consider a possible 'reasonable worst case' scenario to ensure a robust response. This means considering an infection rate between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of the population.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said:
"We may not be able to prevent a pandemic, but with good planning we can reduce its impact on all aspects of society. This framework will enable organisations such as schools, businesses, transport, and the NHS to prepare for a pandemic in an integrated manner, with the full support of cross-government policy and planning.
"But many changes can be made now. Developing habits for respiratory hygiene - using tissues, disposing of them carefully, and cleaning hands - are all good practice even before a pandemic arrives."
It is recognised internationally that the UK has already made significant progress in protecting the UK and we will continue to work closely with the World Health Organisation.
Dr David Heymann, the Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment at WHO said this week:
"The UK is still in the vanguard of countries worldwide in preparing for a pandemic, and is also one of the leading global players in addressing the cross-sectoral issues in their planning."
The Department of Health has also announced £2M to support the Global Pandemic Influenza Action Plan, to increase vaccine supply to help develop capacity to secure vaccine supply for the developing world.