In an effort to have more persons immunised with the Influenza A (H1N1) vaccine, the Ministry of Health has taken a decision to expand the categories, to those persons one year of age and over, with immediate effect.

This comes as the Ministry reviews the vaccination campaign which was started late January and has thus far immunised some 7,551 individuals, considered at-risk for the disease.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, for the period January to present 3,047 males and 4,478 females were vaccinated – with the gender of 26 not documented.

The figures, which were recorded up to March 10, also showed the number of persons with asthma vaccinated to be 1,005; those with diabetes 1,947; individuals with heart disease 117, while those with morbid obesity stood at 4.

Other chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs) registered were 413.

The campaign also saw 184 pregnant women coming forward to be vaccinated during the period.

With respect to healthcare workers and the essential services sector (including police, the military and front line personnel) some 1,318 and 1,752 respectively, were immunised.

Senior Medical Officer of Health (SMOH), Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, who is responsible for coordinating the H1N1 campaign, in commenting on the figures, said they represented "a fair response by the public that could be better". She added, "We have had our polyclinics open earlier than usual and in some instances closing later, to accommodate the public."

Dr. Ferdinand observed: "There are still more health-care workers that we should be seeing. We have about 4,000 of these throughout the system – in our polyclinics, districts hospitals, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Psychiatric Hospital – and, we are

not just talking about people who interact with patients but the ancillary and administrative staff and others, who work in the Health Ministry."

She reiterated the fact that the Influenza A (H1N1) virus infection could pose life-threatening problems for pregnant women, individuals with diabetes, asthma, heart disease and sickle cell anaemia, as well as morbid obesity. The Health official stressed: "Persons with these conditions should get vaccinated and protect themselves. We still have the vaccine at our polyclinics and it is absolutely free of charge.?? Influenza A (H1N1) is still active in some parts of the world, like Northern Africa and Asia."

Healthcare workers, in the public and private sectors, frontline staff of the air and seaports, members of the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Barbados Defence Force and the Barbados Fire Service, not yet vaccinated, are also being reminded to do so.

Twenty thousand doses of the Influenza A (H1N1) vaccine, Panenza was procured, through a purchasing arrangement with the Pan-American Health Organization, by the Health Ministry, at the beginning of this year.

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