A public information blitz has been launched in Ireland urging everyone to contact their doctor and receive the H1N1 vaccinePA

Five swine flu victims have died in the Irish Republic since cases of the illness emerged in May. 

More than 3,500 have been affected by the bug, with up to 100 new cases needing hospital treatment and being added to the list every week.

The fifth person who died, a man on the east coast, passed away on Sunday as the first batches of swine flu vaccine were being delivered to some family doctors.

The main campaign to vaccinate around 400,000 people in at-risk categories, mainly pregnant women and people with chronic illness aged between six months and 65 years of age, is set to begin on November 2.

A public information blitz has been launched urging everyone to contact their doctor and receive the vaccine.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has said that all five swine flu fatalities so far in the Republic had underlying illnesses.

Around 1,800 GPs have agreed to administer the vaccine, but the family doctors’ lobby group, the Irish Medical Organization, has claimed that up to 1,000 members have concerns about the vaccination plans.

Dr. Michael Mehigan of the IMO said that while GPs want to support the campaign, an increasing number are unhappy with the legal indemnity issues. He said it had nothing to do with vaccine safety, but that the issues needed to be resolved before the campaign begins.

The IMO also reported some minor glitches in the distribution of vaccines. The organization said a number of doctors had received or were listed to receive batches of vaccines although they had not agreed to participate in the campaign.

Dr. Jim Keely, a GP in Malahide, Dublin, told The Irish Times that when he checked to see when his doses of the seasonal flu vaccine would arrive he was told by the distributors he was also down to receive a delivery of the swine flu vaccine.

Keely said, “They are out and delivering this to people that never ordered it. There could be a tremendous amount of wastage if people are sent vaccines that they haven’t requested.”

Keely said he was not participating in the vaccination scheme because of the responsibilities put on GPs by the program, including a request that they identify all at-risk patients in their area and because his insurer had concerns about it.

Meanwhile, in the North, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey apologized to the family of a 14-year-old Derry girl for a delay in telling them that she had swine flu.

Orla O’Kane, who had underlying health problems, died in hospital two weeks ago, but her family were only informed that she had swine flu last Friday. The family had already held a wake and a funeral for the teenager.

Now concerns have been expressed that many of those in attendance may have been exposed to the virus. Her brother is now understood to be suffering from swine flu.

McGimpsey admitted that the way the case was handled was unacceptable and created further anxiety for a family who were grieving for their child.