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Talks to obtain swine flu vaccine

The health secretary has said the government is taking steps to begin vaccination against swine flu, but it could be up to six months before a vaccine is available for use.

Alan Johnson said that negotiations are being held to try to obtain "early supplies" when it is ready before a full-blown pandemic is declared.

Addressing criticism about the NHS's flu line, Mr Johnson told MPs that sufferers could contact an interim line to be diagnosed and prescribed antiviral medication or an internet-based system, which should be active within a week.

Although the total number of UK cases of swine flu has reached 78, Mr Johnson told the Commons: "We have yet to see sustained transmission within communities within the UK, that is to say a significant number of cases between people who have no obvious connection to each other.

"The containment strategy that we have adopted, supplying antivirals as a preventative measure is effective in that it is delaying the spread of the disease and buying valuable time."

However, he warned that the disease is likely to spread and it would not be possible to prevent a widespread outbreak.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Department of Health