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Government challenged over £1bn spend on 'exaggerated' swine flu measures

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The government spent more than £1bn in preparation for a flu pandemic, it has been disclosed.

Health minister Gillian Merron said spending to date on “pandemic influenza preparedness - not swine flu specific” was about £500m.

“Additional spend committed around the time of the start of the swine flu pandemic takes the amount to over £1bn,” she said in a Commons written reply to Labour MP Paul Flynn.

Last week, Mr Flynn challenged health secretary Andy Burnham over the preparations, which some have criticised as an over-reaction.

“Was the threat of 65,000 British swine flu deaths an unscientific exaggeration that has cost the country dearly, not only financially but in terms of stress and distorted NHS priorities?” he asked.

Mr Burnham defended the government’s response, saying: “We had to take every possible step to keep the country safe through what was declared a world health pandemic, not by this government but by the World Health Organisation.

“We saw the events in Mexico in the spring, followed by the exceptional spike in flu cases in this country in the summer.

“There were understandably high levels of public concern, and I make no apology for making all the necessary preparations to keep the public safe through that. We have come through the pandemic because of the strength of the plans and preparations that this government put in place.”

In another written reply, Ms Merron said nearly 29 million doses of swine flu vaccine had been delivered to the UK by January but refused to put a cost on them as it would “violate confidentiality clauses” with the makers.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • So how much of the £1Bn went to drugs companies? It seems we are not going to be told. "Conveniently" there are confidentiality clauses surrounding that!

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  • Oh yes the good old confidentiality clause - very useful! I do not think that a third of all nurse have had this vaccine as I personally know of only a handful. This is probably one of the reasons that there are so many job freezes everywhere the money has been spent on swine flu vaccine.. Talk about spin and scaremongering isn't in it.

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