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Australia flu vaccines by October, fears 'second wave'

world Updated: Aug 28, 2009 12:11 IST

Australia on Friday said a massive swine flu vaccination programme would start in October but warned of a possible "second wave" of infections in the hard-hit country.

Chief medical officer Jim Bishop said he was hopeful A(H1N1) influenza had peaked, with 147 related deaths and almost 35,000 cases, but cautioned it could surge again.

"The intensity of the epidemic may have been reached but we don't know if that's going to come back in a second wave," Bishop said.

"We don't know whether it will run on, so we're targeting those people most likely to end up in hospital."

The government has ordered 21 million doses of vaccine from manufacturer CSL, enough to cover the entire population.

Pregnant women, the chronically ill, children in special schools and health workers would receive the first two million doses, Bishop said.

He also played down claims that insurers would not cover doctors giving the shots because conclusive clinical trials had not yet been completed.

"By the time the vaccine will be available... we would have any issues of indemnity and those sorts of issues solved," said Bishop.

"We are in discussion at the moment with all the stakeholders and they're progressing well. I don't see this as an obstacle for the rollout of the programme," he added.