Swine flu vaccine arrives

| 22/01/2010

(CNS): Following endless delays the medical officer of health has confirmed the arrival of the H1N1 vaccine in the Cayman Islands. Dr. Kiran Kumar said the shots had come from the UK and were now available free of charge to the general public from the Cayman Islands Hospital Atrium (next to the Pharmacy) and at all district health centres. Officials said the dates for the vaccine availability in Little Cayman will be announced later.  Dr Kumar encouraged people to take advantage of the free shots as he said the flu is still circulating and making people sick.

The Women’s Health Clinic at the Cayman Islands Hospital will hold a special vaccination clinic for pregnant women (today) Friday, 22 January from noon to 7:00 p.m. No appointments are necessary to receive the vaccine at any H.S.A facility and the vaccine will be offered on a first come first service basis. To ensure easy access to the vaccine, the Public Health Department is also considering opening clinics at supermarkets and other public places. The dates and times for this will be announced at a later date. The vaccine will also be provided at no cost to private practitioners interested in offering the vaccine to their patients.  

Dr Kumar recommended that health care workers and support staff; pregnant women in any trimester; children and adults with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, those with chronic respiratory, cardiac (excluding hypertension) renal, liver and neurological disease take advantage of the free shots.

 He said the H1N1 influenza virus is still circulating and causing illness and hospitalizations globally.  "Many people are still susceptible to this virus and would benefit from vaccination. We will have a very good supply of the H1N1 vaccine and encourage all residents to get the vaccine,” the doctor added.

 Minister of Health Mark Scotland alsospoke out in strong support of Public Health’s efforts to ensure that all residents are immunized.      “With H1N1 flu declining in many countries I am concerned that people may become complacent, thinking that this is all over. We have a window of opportunity to limit the impacts of the pandemic flu, and I urge people to take advantage of the vaccination programme. Vaccinations provide a chance for people to protect themselves and reduce the risk of serious complications,” the Minister said.

Public health statistics show that the Islands are still dealing with a higher than usual flu activity and that the pandemic flu is still the predominant strain doing the rounds. “Although we are only testing severe and other selected cases, the fact that twenty cases tested positive for H1N1 during the past six weeks shows that the pandemic flu is still the leading flu in Cayman right now,” Dr Kumar added. “While the amount of flu cases has declined, we are counting about 150 cases per week, compared to a ‘normal’ flu season, when we deal with an average of 80 – 100 per week.”

Since the start of the H1N1 pandemic in June last year, Cayman has reported 129 confirmed H1N1 flu cases. Since December twenty cases (11 children and 9 adults) were confirmed, 8 of which were reported in January. “We have found that young people are the most affected by H1N1 and asked that parents and schools continue to take the necessary precautions such as keeping sick children at home,” Dr. Kumar urged. For 2009, public health officials recorded a total of 7,200 flu cases in its surveillance programme – well above the 4,200 cases of 2008. “This excessive number is definitely related to the H1N1 pandemic,” Dr. Kumar said estimating that about 6,000 persons may have acquired the H1N1 infection in the Cayman Islands.  

The Panenza vaccine produced by Sanofi Pasteur in France and approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union will be available at the following times: Monday – Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the Cayman Islands Hospital Atrium; Monday – Friday: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the George Town General Practice Clinic, all district health centres and Faith Hospital, Cayman Brac.

Category: Health

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