It is important to be clear about the differences between seasonal flu, avian flu and pandemic flu. Avian influenza is a disease which mainly affects birds. Seasonal flu refers to the virus that circulates in the human population and causes widespread illness each winter. Pandemic flu will only occur after an avian virus has mutated into a novel strain which can spread easily between humans and to which they do not have immunity.
We do not currently prioritise people with severe mental illnesses for immunisation against influenza and have made no specific plans to prioritise this group of people for immunisation against pandemic influenza.
As a specific vaccine will not start to become available until four to six months after the pandemic virus has emerged, it is unlikely to be available for the first wave. When stocks start to become available, priority may have to be given to certain groups. Health care workers and other essential service key workers may need to be vaccinated first, as it will be important to maintain health and other essential services. Those groups most at risk of serious illness will be a priority to receive the vaccine as supplies increase.
Final decisions regarding prioritisation will be made on the basis of information emerging from the early stages of the pandemic about the virus and those groups most at risk.