Health officials urged the public to come forward and take up the swine flu vaccine when it is made available next month.

Senior officials from the HSE and the Department of Health told an Oireachtas Committee that if demand for hospital treatment is high, other out-patient and elective procedures will be cancelled to cope with the pandemic.

Senior health officials briefed members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health on the latest situation regarding the swine flu pandemic.

Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and the HSE's Head of Population Health, Dr Patrick Doorley, were among those attending the session.

They discussed plans for a vaccination programme and estimates of possible infection rates this winter.

The influenza A(H1N1) virus, the first pandemic to be declared by the World Health Organisation in this century, has so far claimed at least 2,837 lives worldwide.