It is believed that provision of seasonal bird flu jabs to the highly susceptible group just as farmers and poultry workers will help prevent the mutation of the bird flu virus into a more virulent form, capable of sparking a bird fu pandemic.
Those who work in the poultry units with strength of 50 or more birds, and researchers involved in studies involving poultry and vets, those involved in culling or disposing of dead birds are the key targets of the massive bird flu vaccination programme.
Letters urging all workers to visit their local GP for a shot of bird flu was sent to all poultry firms in Scotland, last week. To ensure that the vaccination programme is implemented as planned, the help of public health bosses has been further sought.
Seasonal bird flu vaccine has been delivered to all bird owners who reside across the 1.8-mile surveillance zone set up around Cellardyke, Fife. Although health boards had been previously instructed to vaccinate all poultry workers, only two authorities had started the scheme by the time bird flu was discovered in Cellardyke.
NHS Fife is said to have started vaccinating poultry workers as soon as the virus was detected in the dead swan, while NHS Greater Glasgow claimed it had started the vaccination programme earlier this month.
The identification of the deadly H5N1 virus in the area sparked a fear in other health boards, which quickly set out to examine the situation. Efforts were made to identify high risk groups, obtain stocks and vaccinate poultry workers. According to official sources, all health boards have started to offer vaccinations to eligible workers.
'We have asked that the vaccination be made available either through a firm's occupation health unit or through GPs. The Scottish Executive has made arrangements with the industry to ensure all workers in the poultry industry can be contacted. While this vaccine will not offer any protection against the H5N1 virus, it should help protect against the potential re-assortment of the bird flu virus into a pandemic strain by mixing with human influenza viruses. It is a precautionary measure,' said Jim McMenamin, a consultant at Health Protection Scotland.
'Health Protection Scotland has been making sure they are taking action, and all health boards have now sent out letters to poultry workers in their areas to offer them the vaccine,' said an executive spokesperson.