Swine flu vaccines scheduled to arrive on Thursday
– Minister Ramsammy
Although there has been much uncertainty about the arrival of the HINI vaccine (Swine Flu), Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, yesterday confidently confirmed that the anticipated drug is slated to arrive in Guyana on Thursday.
He revealed that the Ministry had previously received a description of three types of vaccines set to arrive by airline service, two of which, Rotavirus and Oral Polio (OPV), arrived last week. However, the arrival of the H1N1 vaccine, he said, is undoubtedly set for March 25.
“We had a bulk of vaccines at the airport. All of the arrival dates for these vaccines came on the same paperwork so we are certain that the H1N1 vaccines will come this week.”
About 75,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to characterise the anticipated arrival, which has been made available to the health sector, compliments of the Pan American Health Organisation. However, Minister Ramsammy reiterated, yesterday, that the supply will in no way cater to the entire population but will rather be administered to certain vulnerable groups.
Through the identification process, the Minister had revealed that about 160,000 persons will become eligible to receive the H1N1 vaccine.
Among those will be approximately 100,000 children under five years old and about 50,000 persons living with other conditions, for which co-morbidity with the H1N1 virus may prove to be very serious and even fatal.
The latter group, which represents persons with certain chronic conditions, was identified based on the Health Ministry’s observance of other countries’ experiences.
In the meantime, the Minister disclosed that his Ministry is currently locked in negotiations with various entities, particularly Central Government, to ensure that the ability to have the target population vaccinated becomes a reality.
The H1N1 vaccine was expected to have arrived since last year. However, Minister Ramsammy had emphasised that the delay in the arrival had not swayed the public health efforts to boost its capacity to test for the H1N1 virus at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory.
It was for this reason that a training programme was facilitated by the officials from the Centre of Diseases Control and Prevention in Atlanta, United States, which saw staffers from the lab being trained to test for the influenza-type virus.
“We took a decision that we were going to test for H1N1 in Guyana and we had to set up capacity to do so. The public Health Reference Lab is now with the capacity to test for the H1N1 virus.”
And this move was not only engaged because of the threat of the recent virus but because the health sector was also previously threatened by other viruses, the likes of SARS and the Avian Flu which according to the Minister are still being closely monitored.
But although the threat of the H1N1 virus has since subsided, the vaccine will still be administered to the target groups, the Minister insisted.
Difference of opinion
And though the H1N1 virus had attracted much attention, Minister Ramsammy revealed his differing opinion that the recent swine flu threat was not as major a public health threat as that of the Avian Flu.
“My view might be different from my colleagues but I don’t think the H1N1 has had an impact like the Avian Flu. It never really disappeared. Right now we don’t hear about the H1N1 virus but the Avian Flu is still here.”
He said that just last week the threat resurfaced again in South East Asia. He underscored that the Ministry cannot afford to be distracted and forget about all the other lingering public health threats.
Accordingly, the Minister revealed that he recently wrapped up a meeting with his technical officers aimed at re -emphasising the importance to address all other public health threats aside from the H1N1 virus.
“I reminded my people that we still have to look at the birds and poultry because there is still the Avian Flu around, there is still SARS; so we still have to be alert and vigilant.”
And the effort of the Ministry often goes unappreciated if an issue of interest such as the H1N1 virus does not take precedence, according to the Minister.
He mused over the fact that some persons may not be at the level to understand that the onus is on the Ministry to not only address a threat at hand but also all other potential public health threats in the quest to protect the health of the population.