Vaccinate against swine flu – Trinidad health minister urges after three deaths reported

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Take the free vac­cines to guard against swine flu, was the ad­vice from Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh yes­ter­day af­ter he re­vealed there have been 17 lab-con­firmed cas­es of In­fluen­za A (H1N1) in the last year.

“I want to urge five ma­jor cat­e­gories of peo­ple es­pe­cial­ly to take the vac­cines: health­care work­ers, preg­nant women, the obese/di­a­bet­ic pop­u­la­tion, chil­dren and pa­tients who are im­muno-com­pro­mised,” he said in an­swer to ques­tions from the Op­po­si­tion in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives yes­ter­day.

“Make use of the free vac­cines avail­able in the pub­lic health sys­tem. The vac­cines are safe for preg­nant women and their fe­tus,” the min­is­ter urged.

Three deaths were re­cent­ly re­port­ed as a re­sult of swine flu, par­tic­u­lar­ly in south­ern ar­eas. Deyals­ingh was asked about the is­sue by UNC MPs Dr Lack­ram Bo­doe and Dr Fuad Khan.

He said apart from the 17 lab-con­firmed H1N1 cas­es, there were al­so two cas­es of In­fluen­za AH3N2 and two cas­es of In­fluen­za B in the last 12 months. He said there was no ev­i­dence any preg­nant woman has died of H1N1.

On when a per­son should seek swine flu test­ing, Deyals­ingh said pro­to­cols for sus­pect­ed cas­es are based on whether the pa­tient has a fever above or be­low 38 de­grees and is very ill.

“But in the pub­lic health sys­tem, we treat all cas­es re­gard­less of whether pa­tients are sus­pect­ed or con­firmed, or whether the fever is above or be­low 38 de­grees. If you wait for a re­port to con­firm, the per­son would have died,” he said.

Nasal swabs are used for test­ing.

Deyals­ingh said med­ical work­ers and preg­nant women are very dif­fi­cult to en­cour­age to take the vac­cine.

He said: “We’ve made a con­cert­ed ef­fort in our an­te­na­tal clin­ics to ad­vise preg­nant women to ac­cept the vac­cine. Cur­rent­ly, we’ve vac­ci­nat­ed close to 2,000 preg­nant women in the pub­lic health sys­tem.

“Three women who weren’t vac­ci­nat­ed al­most died. We had to get them over the hump in the last year by us­ing ICU unit treat­ment. Two re­cov­ered and one is cur­rent­ly be­ing weaned off the ven­ti­la­tor. We hope she’ll fol­low the oth­er two in hav­ing a full suc­cess­ful re­cov­ery.”

He said preg­nant women are afraid the vac­cine will cause birth de­fects.

“To all preg­nant women, the vac­cine is safe for you and for your fe­tus at any stage!” he ad­vised.

The min­is­ter stressed that the vac­cines are free at pub­lic health in­sti­tu­tions. The Health Min­istry bought 75,000 vac­cines and has dis­trib­uted about 17,000, with an­oth­er 25,000 or­dered.

Deyals­ingh added that there are suf­fi­cient Tam­i­flu tablets in the pub­lic health sys­tem to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion and close watch is be­ing kept on stocks. If more is need­ed, it will be avail­able with­in 24-48 hours from PA­HO head­quar­ters in Pana­ma.

He said he wasn’t aware of any ev­i­dence that Tam­i­flu caus­es birth de­fects.

“We of­fer Tam­i­flu tablets to all preg­nant women we’ve treat­ed. The three I men­tioned ear­li­er were giv­en Tam­i­flu or oth­er an­tivi­ral med­ica­tions,” the min­is­ter said.

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