Fri | Jul 19, 2019

Flu vaccine available to high-risk groups

Published:Friday | December 14, 2018 | 12:41 AM

Acting chief medical officer in the Ministry of Health Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie has indicated that the flu vaccine is now available to high-risk groups, including children, the elderly, and persons with immuno-compromised conditions such as cancer and diabetes.

“These are the persons that we try to protect because they are the most vulnerable to the influenza virus, so, therefore, this vaccine is available in health centres for these persons,” she said during a press conference held at the ministry’s New Kingston offices on Wednesday.

She noted that the ministry, at this time, does not have the capacity to vaccinate everyone that requires the flu vaccine, noting that it is also available privately so persons can visit their private health practitioners in order to get vaccinated.

“In particular, we do try to vaccinate our healthcare providers because we realise that they may be the conduit as they are receiving all the germs. We don’t want them to pass it on to persons, so it is very important that the healthcare providers are vaccinated as well to ensure that they do not form a part of that problem,” she said.


In the meantime, Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton is encouraging persons to protect themselves and others from contracting influenza by practising proper hygiene.

“If you can get the vaccine, then fine. If not, the whole approach to sanitation ­ coughing, washing hands, and so on ­ are all standard operating procedures to be absolutely cautious during the [flu] season,” he said.

More Jamaicans are prone to contracting influenza during the flu season, which begins to increase from October to November, peaks between December and March, and can last until as late as May.

The Ministry of Health recommends that members of the public, and, in particular, members of identified priority groups get the flu vaccine.

These groups include:

- Healthcare workers
- Pregnant women
- Children over six months of age with chronic illnesses
- Non-health front-line workers such as the police, the army, the correctional services, and Customs and immigration officers
- Parliamentarians
- Institutionalised persons
- The elderly over 65 years with chronic illnesses.

The flu vaccination protects individuals from influenza infections, decreases the severity of influenza infections, and minimises the spread of flu viruses to other persons.