AH1N1 under control; vaccine expires on January 8

By Chandani Kirinde

Stocks of vaccine imported to immunize people against AH1N1 expire this month while the Health Ministry claims that the danger of the deadly disease spreading has been averted. In the past two weeks, the ministry has been pressuring the regional health authorities to use the vaccine before the expiry date.

Acting Chief Epidemiologist Dr. Sudath Peiris said 90 percent of the pregnant women in the country had been covered by the immunization programme by now and there was no need for healthy children or adults to get themselves vaccinated.

In a circular issued on December 14, the Ministry of Health directed provincial and regional directors of health services and heads of government hospitals that the A H1N1 vaccine be given to pregnant mothers-to-be with immediate effect.

Given the close date of the expiry of the vaccine, the health authorities were asked to organize the program to be completed within two weeks ending December 31, 2010.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peiris said the AH1N1 influenza was now on the decline with the number of deaths dropping from nine in the week between December 13 and 19 down to one in the week between December 20 and 26.

The number of confirmed cases too has shown a decline during the same period down from 76 in mid-December to 47 in the latter part of the month.

Meanwhile almost all the stocks of the AH1N1 vaccine imported had been used up by now, Dr. Peiris said. The last batches of the vaccination distributed islandwide will expire on January 8, but Dr.Peiris said much of the medicine had been used and hence there would be minimum wastage.

He added that the health authorities here were working in consultation with the World Health Organisation and the WHO also believes there is no need to stock up large amounts of this vaccine in Sri Lanka any more.

The total number of confirmed cases of swine flu between September 20 and December 26 stood at 400 while the total number of deaths reported stood at 23, according to the latest figures released by the Epidemiology Unit of the Ministry of Health. About 55 percent of those affected were from the Western Province with Colombo recording more than 200 cases. Gender-wise, the victims were 55 percent male and 45 percent female.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peiris also ruled out any large scale immunization programme for school children against the AH1N1 influenza.

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