With effect from next week the health authorities are to start a free vaccination campaign against seasonal influenza. Health Minister Chris Fearne stated that 16% of the population went down with influenza last year, and the figure can be further reduced through the preventive vaccination. Dr Fearne added that Government had ordered some 100,000 vaccinations, and gave an assurance it is safe.
The 16% affected last year translates into 162 persons per thousand, with the worst period being the second week in January. Influenza causes some 300,000 deaths worldwide every year.
Minister Fearne pointed out that seasonal influenza affects one in every seven persons. Once again, Goverenment is providing this anti-influenza vaccination without charge. As from Monday, the vaccination will start being administered at health centres to children under the age of five, adults aged 55 and over, and persons suffering from chronic illnesses. From the following Monday it will be given free to everyone.
Minister Fearne pointed out that 87,000 persons were vaccinated last year in order to avoid the effects of influenza. Besides being good health-wise, this protection against influenza also avoids hospital treatment.
“Every year influenza has serious consequences, both through the illness and also on the whole of society. Which is why, just likelast year, we are embarking on a strong campaign for people to get vaccinated.We have ordered 100,000 units. This year we are using a strong vaccination with wider coverage than that used in previous years.”
Minister Fearne explained that the vaccination is safe, adding that it takes between two and four weeks to kick in and reach the peak of effectiveness, so people getting vaccinated now will be covered when the influenza starts to spread.
Public Health Superintendent, Professor Charmaine Gauci stated that Malta, just like other countries within the World Health Organisation, monitors influenza cases, adding that one of the benefits of the vaccine is that the population is protected. Professor Gauci strssed that even pregnant women can take the vaccination.