The government has announced new agreements with GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter to secure supplies of up to 90 million more doses of pre-pandemic H1N1 vaccine, as the number of confirmed cases of Swine flu in the UK rises to 102.

According to the Department of Health, it is hoped that the deals will provide enough vaccine – based on the current strain - to offer protection to those most vulnerable to infection before the arrival of a pandemic, without affecting the supply of seasonal flu vaccine.

Although cases of swine flu in the UK are so far considered to be mild, there is a possibility that the current circulating strain of the virus could mutate into something much more dangerous to humans. Furthermore, experts believe that the current virus outbreak has the potential to go pandemic, and so the government has moved to secure batches of vaccine “in advance of a pandemic wave”, explained Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson.

The advance purchase agreements, which will take effect from the moment the World Health Organisation declares a Phase 6 pandemic, will provide enough protection for the entire UK population although it will still take a year for all the necessary vaccine to be produced. However, the DH is hoping that by December this year there will be enough to protect at least half of the population from the disease.

Meanwhile, the National Association for Primary Care has reported that GPs across the country may have to start testing a wider number of patients for swine flu if the criteria for those considered ‘at risk’ is expanded.

As it stands, GPs have been advised to test patients with flu-like symptoms who have either recently travelled to Mexico and the US, or have had contact with anybody who has. But Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has reportedly said doctors might have to look at cases where there is no link to travel abroad, in case disease transmission is wider than previously thought.