Paris (AFP) Oct 19, 2009
France will begin Tuesday vaccinating key medical workers against swine flu and will continue the preventative campaign for the general population early next month, officials said.
More than 1,000 centres will be set up for the campaign to vaccinate the general public. The health ministry said Monday details of the project would be unveiled later in the week.
But a document released last month by Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the campaign would focus first on health professionals, then pregnant women, infants and their carers, and people with underlying health problems.
Vaccinations for the rest of the population will come once the priority groups have been taken care of.
An opinion poll in late September showed that two thirds of the French public did not plan to get vaccinated against swine flu, with more than half saying they feared side effects from the jabs.
France has ordered 94 million doses of vaccine in response to the A(H1N1) pandemic.
Monday's announcement came a day after an 11-month-old baby in France died from swine flu. The child, who had been in a Paris childrens' hospital since Friday, also suffered from a serious heart condition, officials said.
It was the 33rd death in France from swine flu.
The country has a limited supply of the domestically-made vaccine, with doses for about 1.18 million people available in the first batch as Japan heads into the autumn-winter flu season, a ministry official said.
"Pregnant women and those with chronic diseases are the next priority group and will start getting the vaccination from early November," the official said. "Babies and small children will follow, starting in late December."
But as of Monday, only 23 prefectures began the vaccinations while 23 other prefectures plan to kick off the programme later this week, with Tokyo starting some time after October 26, the ministry said.
"We have a lot more doctors and hospitals in Tokyo, which means we need more time for preparation," a Tokyo official said.
In western Osaka prefecture, nearly 180,000 medical workers are waiting for the shot, with local officials worried about a supply shortage.
The A(H1N1) virus is believed to have first entered Japan in May, and government officials fear the pandemic will spread further in the coming influenza season.
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