A BBC Freedom of Information request has unearthed the troubling fact that little more that a third of London's nursing staff have bothered to take up the swine flu vaccine.
Despite the vaccine's widespread availability — GlaxoSmithKline are maintaining supplies despite the slowdown of the pandemic — nursing staff, who routinely come into contact with some of those most susceptible to the virus' complications, remain unenthusiastic about getting the jab. The rate isnt much better amongst other health professionals: 38% of London GPs and 45% of other doctors have been vaccinated.
Having long vanishing from the news schedules, should we still be worried about swine flu? The alarmaist stories of last summer — up to 65,000 deaths, suggested the Guardian in July; the current toll is 362 — have been sheepishly forgotten. There is even evidence that the spread of the virus was much worse than understood: a recent study put the H1N1 transmission rate amongst London schoolkids at 32%, ten times higher than the Health Protection Agency estimated.
Yet the death rate remains low, and despite predictions that the snout of swine flu would rear its piggy head again come deepest winter, the number of new infections continues to drop — from a peak of nearly 100,000 new cases per week in November to less than 5,000 currently. The work of a vigilant government, or an indication of the overreaction by our political and media elite last year? You decide.