Thursday, August 20, 2009

German government gives green light for swine flu vaccination program

Germans could begin receiving the vaccine against the H1N1 virus as soon as the end of September, said Health Minister Ulla Schmidt.

The decision on Wednesday by the federal government paves the way for Germany's biggest mass vaccination in postwar history. The country has already ordered 50 million doses of vaccine, which is still undergoing clinical tests.

That would immunize up to a third of the population against the virus, which is more commonly known as swine flu.

The first to be vaccinated will be people with chronic illnesses or immune disorders, pregnant women, healthcare workers and emergency services personnel. Vaccination should be free of cost for everyone with private or public health insurance.

Depending upon how many people are vaccinated, the program will cost the government and private insurers between 600 million euros ($852 million) and one billion euros.

The details of how to carry out the immunizations, such as whether they will be administered by public health offices or by personal physicians, are being left up to each German state.

So far there have been about 12,500 confirmed cases of swine flu in Germany. 300 to 500 new infections are reported every day, Schmidt said.

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