H1N1 vaccine delayed

| 14/01/2010

Cayman Islands news, Cayman Islands Health News, H1N1 vaccine(CNS): The arrival of the H1N1 vaccine has been delayed due to a strike at vaccine manufacturer Sanofi’s warehouse in France, Medical Officer of Health Dr Kiran Kumar has confirmed. “We are disappointed by the delay, but hope that the vaccine will be shipped next week,” Dr. Kumar said. “As soon as it arrives, we will advise the public where and when they can be vaccinated,” he added.ThePanenza vaccine, produced by Sanofi Pasteur in France and approved by the World Health Organisation and the European Union, will be available to everyone at the Cayman Islands Hospital, all district health centres, Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and the Little Cayman Clinic.

“Because we will be receiving a shipment of 10,000 doses, the H1N1 vaccination programme will be open to everyone. However, In keeping with international guidelines, we strongly recommend vaccination of the priority groups,” Dr. Kumar explained.

As such public health officials are calling for the following groups to be vaccinated: health care workers and support staff to ensure there is no disruption to health care services, pregnant women in any trimester, children and adults with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and those with chronic respiratory, cardiac (excluding hypertension), renal, liver and neurological disease.

To ensure easy access to the vaccine, the Public Health Department will hold a special vaccination clinic for pregnant women, and are also considering open clinics at supermarkets and other public places. No appointments will be necessary and the vaccine will be offered on a first come first serve basis. The vaccine will also be provided at no cost to private practitioners, and those interested in offering the vaccine to their patients, should contact the Public Health Department, Dr. Kumar asked.

According to the Medical Officer of Health the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus is still circulating and is 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.”

Minister of Health, the Hon. Mark Scotland spoke out in strong support of Public Health’s efforts to ensure that all residents are immunized. “With H1N1flu 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 when the vaccine arrives. 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,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said. “While the amount of flu cases have 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, 9 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 noted. He however estimates that about 6,000 persons may have acquired the H1N1 infection in the Cayman Islands.

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