Stock of A/H1N1 vaccines to expire soon

Saturday, 25 December 2010 00:29 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shezna Shums

The Ministry of Health together with the Epidemiology Unit has issued a circular that all pregnant mothers and some identified high risk groups be given the A/H1N1 Influenza vaccination.

However the A/H1N1 Influenza vaccine which was only made last year costs a whopping US $ 100 per unit, which is a heavy burden for a country like Sri Lanka. Owing to the high cost involved the Ministry of Health had requested the World Health Organisation (WHO) to donate an initial consignment to Sri Lanka. These vaccines arrived in Sri Lanka in June 2009 and were administered when A/H1N1Influenza first broke out. But now the Health Ministry has another problem in its hands.  That is because the expiry date of the vaccine is nearing.

“Now that we have these vaccines we have decided to vaccinate pregnant mothers and some high risk groups before they reach their expiry date,” said Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Peries.

According to the Health Ministry statement the date of expiry of this stock of vaccine is 31 December 2010; that is just a week away.

The total worth of the 1.5 million vaccines is US$ 150 million, and once this consignment is exhausted, the government may be required to purchase the vaccines if the need arises.

The vaccination campaign is being done island wide at all government medical clinics, by Midwives, Public Health Officers and Medical Officers of Health. Private hospitals too could request for this free vaccine and administer it to those in need of it, but only charge a service fee.

Pregnant mothers and mothers needing antenatal care or those attending regular antenatal clinics as well as pregnant mothers in hospital antenatal wards need to be immunised by the respective medical institutions.

In 2009 a total of 600 cases of A/H1N1 Influenza were detected and there were 47 deaths.

Dr. Peries explained that between February and the last week of September this year no cases of A/H1N1 Influenza were recorded.

“However in late September, again we recorded a few cases and till last week the Lady Ridgeway Hospital saw a few cases of A/H1N1 Influenza,” said Dr. Peries.

Todate there are over 300 confirmed cases and 18 deaths owing to A/HINI Influenza and before the situation gets worse the government is carrying out this vaccination campaign.

Some of the high risk groups; are people suffering from chronic diseases, long term cancer patients, those with heart problems and people whose immune system is weak and are likely to catch infections easily.

Influenza A/HINI is a fast spreading disease and was first detected in Mexico in June 2009 and became a pandemic worldwide soon after.

In Sri Lanka the most number of cases with over 100 cases is reported from Colombo District and the age groups which have seen the highest number of cases are: those between 1 to 10 years old - 72 cases, 11 to 20 years old - 46 cases, 21 to 30 year old - 75 cases and 31 to 40 year old group recording 46 cases.

The Ministry of Health advises the public to take precautionary measures such as washing hands regularly, discarding items such as tissues used for personal hygiene, staying away from large public gathering and places if suffering from fever and other flu like symptoms.

The public are also advised to seek immediate medical assistance if prolonged fever, headaches, body pains, vomiting,