Uptake of annual flu jab below expectations - 5/1/2006

Uptake of annual flu jab below expectations
Cynthia Busuttil

One-fourth of those entitled to get the annual flu jab for free did not do so, Tanya Melillo, chairman of the national influenza pandemic standing committee, said.

"The uptake of the influenza vaccine this season was much lower than expected," she told The Times.

Dr Melillo pointed out that this year the government bought an annual influenza vaccine for every individual over the age of 55 as well as those suffering from chronic diseases. In fact, an order for 150,000 doses was placed by the government this year to be dispensed for free.

"Abroad people have to pay for the vaccine, and here we are giving it out for free for their benefit because prevention is better than cure," she said.

She pointed out that the weather was getting colder and usually it is when the mercury hits its lowest point that the seasonal influenza starts in Malta. She urged those who booked their vaccine to take it immediately.

Dr Melillo explained that the intention behind the vaccine was to prevent people ending up in hospital because of complications.

She said some people were under the wrong impression that taking the vaccine would lead to them to get the flu. Although that could indeed be the case for some people when they take the virus for the first time, the jab would still be beneficial in the long run, she explained.

Moreover, many people had booked the vaccine because they panicked but now that things had calmed down they opted not to be inoculated.

Apart from a lower uptake than expected, Dr Melillo said a number of people had ordered the vaccine privately but failed to go to their family doctor to take it.

"This has left doctors with a stock of vaccines and what is likely to happen now is that when these same patients ask their doctor to book the vaccine another time, the doctors will not comply," she said.

She said the campaign was targeted at making people aware that the vaccine is beneficial to everyone. She stressed the importance of increasing the country's total vaccination coverage rate, especially among the over 55-year-olds and infants, as requested by the World Health Organisation.

"The people need to heed doctors' advice. At the end of the day it is for their own benefit. They should be taking measures to prevent falling ill rather than first getting ill and then resorting to treatment."

Dr Melillo said that although the Public Health Department had made it clear that the chances of the influenza pandemic hitting this winter was remote, the threat of it happening within the next few years is realistic.

Developed by Alert Communications|  Disclaimer  |  Copyright  |  Privacy Policy
Home Home Home