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H1N1 Update: Vaccine Delayed

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar has confirmed that the arrival of the H1N1 vaccine has been delayed due to a strike at vaccine manufacturer Sanofi's warehouse in France.

"We are disappointed by the delay, but hope that the vaccine will be shipped next week," Dr. Kumar said. "As soon as it arrives, we will advise the public where and when they can be vaccinated," he added.

The Panenza vaccine, produced by Sanofi Pasteur in France and approved by the World Health Organisation and the European Union, will be available to everyone at the Cayman Islands Hospital, all district health centres, Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and the Little Cayman Clinic.

"Because we will be receiving a shipment of 10,000 doses, the H1N1 vaccination programme will be open to everyone. However, In keeping with international guidelines, we strongly recommend vaccination of the priority groups," Dr. Kumar explained.

As such public health officials are calling for the following groups to be vaccinated:

  • Health care workers and support staff to ensure there is no disruption to health care services.
  • Pregnant women in any trimester.
  • Children and adults with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, and those with chronic respiratory, cardiac (excluding hypertension), renal, liver and neurological disease.

To ensure easy access to the vaccine, the Public Health Department will hold a special vaccination clinic for pregnant women, and are also considering open clinics at supermarkets and other public places.

No appointments will be necessary and the vaccine will be offered on a first come first serve basis.

The vaccine will also be provided at no cost to private practitioners, and those interested in offering the vaccine to their patients, should contact the Public Health Department, Dr. Kumar asked.

According to the Medical Officer of Health the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus is still circulating and is causing illness and hospitalizations globally. "Many people are still susceptible to this virus and would benefit from vaccination. We will have a very good supply of the H1N1 vaccine and encourage all residents to get the vaccine."

Minister of Health, the Hon. Mark Scotland spoke out in strong support of Public Health's efforts to ensure that all residents are immunized.

"With H1N1 flu declining in many countries I am concerned that people may become complacent, thinking that this is all over. We have a window of opportunity to limit the impacts of the pandemic flu, and I urge people to take advantage of the vaccination programme when the vaccine arrives."

"Vaccinations provide a chance for people to protect themselves and reduce the risk of serious complications," the Minister said.

Public health statistics show that the Islands are still dealing with a higher than usual flu activity and that the pandemic flu is still the predominant strain doing the rounds.

"Although we are only testing severe and other selected cases, the fact that twenty cases tested positive for H1N1 during the past six weeks shows that the pandemic flu is still the leading flu in Cayman right now," Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kiran Kumar said.

"While the amount of flu cases have declined, we are counting about 150 cases per week, compared to a 'normal' flu season, when we deal with an average of 80 - 100 per week," he continued.

Since the start of the H1N1 pandemic in June last year, Cayman has reported 129 confirmed H1N1 flu cases. Since December twenty cases (11 children and 9 adults) were confirmed, 9 of which were reported in January.

"We have found that young people are the most affected by H1N1 and asked that parents and schools continue to take the necessary precautions such as keeping sick children at home," Dr. Kumar urged.

For 2009, public health officials recorded a total of 7,200 flu cases in its surveillance programme - well above the 4,200 cases of 2008. "This excessive number is definitely related to the H1N1 pandemic," Dr. Kumar noted. He however estimates that about 6,000 persons may have acquired the H1N1 infection in the Cayman Islands.

More information on the Panenza H1N1 Flu Vaccine

What is Panenza?

Panenza is a vaccine to prevent pandemic influenza H1N1 (flu). When a person is given the vaccine, the immune system (the body's natural defense system) will produce its own protection (antibodies) against the disease. None of the ingredients in the vaccine can cause flu. This vaccine contains 45mcg of Thiomersal per 0.5ml of vaccine as a preservative. It is considered safe and the vaccine is approved by PAHO/WHO.

Who should not get or delay Panenza?

Persons with life-threatening allergic reaction to any ingredient of Panenza such as chicken, eggs, formaldehyde, Octoxinol-9 and Neomycin (antibiotic) should not receive the vaccine.

Make sure you list all serious allergies on the Vaccine Questionnaire prior to receiving the vaccine.

Persons with severe infection with high temperature (over 38°C should postpone the vaccine until they are feeling better. A minor infection such as a cold should not be problem.

A blood test to check for infection

If you have a blood test to look for evidence of infection with certain viruses in the first few weeks after vaccination with Panenza, the results of these tests may not be correct. Tell the doctor requesting these tests that you have recently been given Panenza.

How Panenza is given

Your doctor or nurse will give you the vaccine by injection into a muscle. Usually this will be in the upper arm.

Recommended schedule

  • Persons aged 9 years and older will be given one dose of Panenza.
  • Children under 9 years of age will receive two doses.
  • Children aged 6months - 8 years will receive two doses.
  • Interval between 1st and 2nd doses will be at lease three weeks.
  • The vaccine is not recommended in babies under 6 months old.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, Panenza can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them. Allergic reactions may occur following vaccination, in rare cases leading to shock. Doctors are aware of this possibility and have emergency treatment available for use in. The side-effects are generally similar to those related to the seasonal flu vaccine.

Very common side effects

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Aching muscles, joint pain
  • Drowsiness, abnormal crying, loss of appetite, irritability in young children

Common side effects

  • Swelling, bruising, hardness of injection site
  • Fever
  • Shivering, feeling generally unwell
  • Vomiting (young children)

Rare side effects

  • Skin reactions that may spread throughout the body including itchiness of the skin (pruritus, urticaria), rash.
  • Convulsions associated with fever.
  • Neurological disorders that may result in stiff neck, confusion, numbness, pain and weakness of the limbs, loss of balance, loss of reflexes, paralysis of part or all the body (encephalomyelitis, neuritis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome).
  • Allergic reactions leading to shock (a failure of the circulatory system to maintain adequate blood flow to the different organs leading to medical emergency).

Very rare side effects

  • Allergic reactions causing swelling, most apparent in the head and neck, including the face, lips, tongue, throat or any other part of the body (angioedema).

If any of the rare or very rare side effects occur, please seek medical attention immediately. If any of the side effects gets serious, or if you notice any side effects not listed in this leaflet, please tell your doctor.

Treatment of side effects

Side effects such as fever, headache and soreness of the site can be treated with Panadol, Tylenol or similar medication. For other side effects, consult your district health centre, hospital or own doctor.