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Cayman Islands Government

Minister Speaks on H1N1 Vaccine

Minister for Health, the Hon. Mark Scotland

Minister of Health the Hon. Mark Scotland is concerned regarding the availability of the H1N1 vaccine for the Cayman Islands. The UK has yet to allocate vaccine for local residents.

"I am worried because we have not yet received a delivery date. I have therefore asked the Governor to intervene and request that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sends the doses as agreed."

The UK agreed earlier this year to supply Cayman with the necessary H1N1 vaccine.

"This agreement was made during a May 2009 meeting of Overseas Territories Ministers and the FCO and was further confirmed by the UK Department of Health," Minister Scotland said.

Minister Scotland is particularly concerned because the US Centers for Disease Control warn that there will be more illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths this flu season than is normal. A spike in flu activity is also expected in Cayman, especially in December and January, so there is an urgency to get the vaccine here as soon as possible.

At present no Caribbean country has received H1N1 vaccine. The vaccine is also not available on the open market unlike the seasonal flu vaccine which was ordered earlier this year and is now available locally.

While the public awaits the H1N1 vaccine's arrival, Minister Scotland urges proactive measures. "Practice good hygiene, wash hands often and cough or sneeze into tissues. Keep sick children home and do likewise if you become ill. Minimizing contact with others when you have flu is a powerful way to limit the spread of the virus," he said.

He also called on those in high-risk groups to go ahead and get the seasonal vaccine: "This is the best step until the H1N1 vaccine is available here; we want everyone to stay as healthy as possible."

Meanwhile, public health officials are also working with the Pan American Health Organisation to secure the vaccine. PAHO will distribute the vaccine within the region once supplies are on hand.

Once the H1N1 vaccine arrives in Cayman, the Health Services Authority will launch a vaccination programme that will start with high risk groups.

The first phase of vaccinations will focus on children younger than five, persons older than 64, those with underlying medical conditions, and essential workers, including those in health care.

The second phase of vaccination will include healthy children between 5 and 19 years of age and then healthy adults.

(GIS)

For further information contact: Cornelia Oliver