3.7 million in England get H1N1 flu shots

LONDON — Approximately 3.7 million people in England have been vaccinated against H1N1 flu, health authorities announced, and urged anyone in priority groups to have the shot now to ward off the virus in 2010, reported Jan. 21.

Chief medical officer Liam Donaldson said that while a second wave of H1N1 was ending in Britain, risks remained for the 2010 winter flu season.

"Although throughout it has not been a severe illness for most people, children and younger adults have developed serious complications, been admitted to hospital and some have died," he said in a statement giving an update on vaccinations.

"When the virus returns in the 2010 flu season, those who develop complications or die will be doing so from a vaccine preventable disease."

U.S. health officials estimate that approximately 62 million Americans have received H1N1 shots and Chinese health experts told the World Health Organization that a similar number had been vaccinated against the virus in China. The WHO says that officially more than 200 countries have reported about 14,000 H1N1 flu deaths.

Donaldson said that of the 3.7 million vaccines given in England, approximately 387,000 were to health and social-care workers, some 132,000 to pregnant women, and 214,000 to children.

A study by scientists from the Health Protection Agency published earlier Jan. 21 showed that one child in every three caught H1N1 flu in the first wave of infection in hard-hit areas of England in August, July and September 2009 — up to 10 times more than originally thought.

Britain, like many other countries, has cut back its orders of H1N1 vaccines because only one dose is needed, rather than the two original thought, and the pandemic appears to be not as deadly as feared.

Britain bought its vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter.