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The NHS has placed an order for the swine flu vaccine large enough to vaccinate the entire population, it has been revealed.
The move is part of new plans by the health service to tackle the spread of the virus as soon as the first doses are produced later this year.
Although the vaccine is still being developed, the Department of Health said it expects supplies to start to arrive by early autumn, with around 60 million doses available by the end of the year.
This would be enough for 30 million people as each person requires two doses of the vaccine, which will be supplied by manufacturers GSK and Baxter.
As a result, a priority list of patients will be drawn up to give immunity to the most vulnerable people before the bug becomes more virulent.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “Administering vaccines will need to be prioritised and we will make a decision on this when we know more about the risk profile.”
The decision to embark on the biggest vaccination programme of the past 50 years comes after the first British patient without underlying health problems died after contracting swine flu.
Copyright Press Association 2009