Health chiefs are preparing to vaccinate the entire population against swine flu as the virus reaches epidemic levels in the West Midlands.
In what would be the biggest vaccination programme of the last 50 years, experts are already drawing up a priority list of patients to be given immunity before the bug becomes more virulent.
It comes after the first British patient without underlying health problems died after contracting swine flu, taking the number of swine flu-linked deaths in the UK to 15. Peter Holden, the British Medical Association’s lead negotiator on swine flu, said: “The high risk groups will be done at GPs’ surgeries.
“People are still making decisions over this, but we want to get cracking before we get a second wave, which is traditionally far more virulent.”
He added: “If the virus does (mutate), it can get a lot more nasty, and the idea is to give people immunity. But the sheer logistics of dealing with 60 million people can’t be underestimated.”
The latest swine flu-linked death happened at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, NHS East of England.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has warned that other healthy people were at risk of dying from the disease.
He said: “Unfortunately, people who are otherwise healthy could also become seriously ill or, sadly, die.”