GUYANA has received 70,000 doses of the long awaited H1N1 vaccines and Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy and Minister within the Ministry, Dr. Bheri Ramsarran were the first to be vaccinated against the novel influenza strain.
The two were administered the vaccine amongst a gathering of health sector stakeholders at Regency Suites Hotel, in Hadfield Street, Georgetown. Ramsammy said the allocation, costing $72M, was acquired, after several delays, with assistance from Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO).
He announced, too, that he is in the process of negotiations with other countries to secure additional supplies.
“At the beginning, we will not be able to give every citizen the vaccine, because we have a limited supply,” Ramsammy explained.
He said, in light of that, the high risks groups, children under five years of age, pregnant women, persons with asthma and health workers will be given priority.
Ramsammy said plans were initially made to have 200,000 Guyanese vaccinated but, presently, to meet that number, an additional $100M will be needed.
“This is what I am working on now. I will find the rest of the vaccines,” he assured.
Health Ministry statistics indicate that, to date, the number of confirmed H1N1 cases is 32 and those affected are individuals between the ages of 15 and 40 years.
The Ministry said, since the H1N1 virus spreads like the seasonal flu, persons should adhere to health advisories, including:
* covering the nose and mouth, with tissue, when coughing or sneezing and
throwing it into the trash after;
* washing hands often, with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing;
* avoiding to touch the eyes, nose or mouth, as germs are easily spread that way;
* trying to avoid close contact with sick people and
* staying at home, if sick, for seven days after symptoms of the illness surface or until you have been symptoms free for 24 hours, whichever is longer, to keep you from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
Additionally, other mechanisms in place to address the H1N1 situation in Guyana include the acquisition of new equipment for testing, which cost some $8M and is installed at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL) where routine tests have begun.
NPHRL Director, Dr. Colin Roach, in an invited comment, said the occurrence of influenza is seasonal and, with the testing facilities, as well as the vaccines, Guyana is now set to address any instances of the novel strain.