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Conference invite for immunisation expert

23 May 2011

The Head of Healthcare Programmes from Jersey’s Public Health Department has been invited to speak to delegates at an international children’s health conference about Jersey’s unique success in protecting children during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

Dr Linda Diggle will address more than 2000 delegates, including senior healthcare leaders and prominent academics, at the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Disease Annual Conference in The Hague. She will explain Jersey’s response to the pandemic and how staff from Health and Social Services, Education, Sport and Culture, other States departments, and a number of other organisations, worked together seamlessly to protect Jersey from the impact of swine flu. This included achieving vaccination of more than 12,500 children in six days. 

Dr Diggle was invited to speak at the conference after a group of independent scientific researchers, commissioned by the European Centre for Disease Control,  studied the Jersey pandemic experience and measured the substantial impact of the pandemic flu vaccination campaign in preventing major spread of the virus in Jersey. 

She said "I’m both delighted and very proud to be flying the flag for Jersey at such a prestigious conference and to be representing all those who contributed to the vaccination campaign. Since the pandemic, healthcare professionals in other countries have told us how they envy the way so many organisations in Jersey quickly came together to deal with the swine flu pandemic. Our response seems to be considered unique and they want to learn how we managed to make this happen."

Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Turnbull, said "Even though H1N1 swine flu turned out to be less deadly overall than first thought, it was clearly evident from other countries that swine flu could make some people, particularly young children and those with existing chronic medical conditions, very ill. Sadly, many became seriously ill, needing intensive care. A substantial number died. 

"During the pandemic, paediatric intensive care units in the UK were bursting at the seams and we were very concerned that enough intensive treatment would not be available in the UK for Jersey children who became critically ill. It was vital therefore that we protected our children through vaccination. The independent research, commissioned by the European Centre for Disease Control, has subsequently shown the vaccine to have been 100% effective in protecting Jersey children, with none of them contracting swine flu and needing medical attention once the vaccine’s immunity had kicked in.

"Most interestingly, the researchers estimated that the use of Tamiflu; the 'Catch it, Bin it, Kill it' campaign; the 48 hour rule for school children returning from abroad and the vaccination campaign prevented 11,000 children and almost 12,000 adults in Jersey from being infected during the 2009 pandemic. It is likely this would have occurred over a short period and the impact on the hospital and Jersey as a whole would have been considerable.  I am delighted that our success, based on seamless teamwork underpinned by political commitment, has attracted international attention."

The conference will be taking place from 7 to 11 June.

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