There has been a low take-up of the influenza vaccine and Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton is appealing to Jamaicans to protect themselves from the flu virus.
Tufton, in a statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, indicated that between November and December last year, 2,370 doses were administered despite 25,400 doses of the trivalent influenza vaccine being distributed throughout regional health authorities.
“I wish to implore persons who fall in the high-risk groups, to ensure that they are vaccinated against the flu. At the same time, I encourage private healthcare providers to procure the influenza vaccine through private distributors, in order to provide for the general population,” Tufton said.
He informed that his ministry has made available the flu vaccine free of cost in the public health system to high-risk members of the population including healthcare workers, children and the elderly with chronic illnesses.
Tufton said the vaccination for influenza is recommended annually, before the start of the flu season.
He also reminded members of the public to practice good hygiene including washing hands with soap and water and covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing, which will help to prevent the transmission of the virus.
He added that persons with the flu should get adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, avoid close contact with other persons and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
Persons are also encouraged to, as necessary, visit their doctor or health centre, some of which have extended opening hours.
Influenza is a viral infection that spreads easily from person to person, mainly by coughing, sneezing and poor hand hygiene.
Tufton informed that 2019 data from the Ministry show that persons 60 years and older, who are among the high-risk groups, are being severely affected.
In addition, the Minister said between January and June 2019, there were six deaths from the flu (Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic 09.
The Ministry also confirmed that two strains of the flu are currently circulating in Jamaica: Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic 09.