Medical staff should be the first to get vaccinated against swine flu (the H1N1 influenza) so that they can treat patients without acquiring infection, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

The immunisation of clinical staff is important to maintain a functional health system and to treat patients with the H1N1 virus and other diseases, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, the WHO’s highest level of advisory body, warned in July.

Healthcare workers are also in a position where they can easily pass infection on to already ill patients, the group that suffers worst from infection.

In June 2009 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 81 cases of swine flu in healthcare workers.

The WHO says all governments should put healhtcare practitioners first when considering vaccinations, and then decide depending on their own demographic which socio sectors have access to the vaccine next.