Majority of Jamaica’s frontline health workers accept vaccination as H1N1 deaths rise

Approximately 90 percent of frontline health workers have received vaccination to protect themselves against the Influenza A (H1N1) virus which has claimed the lives of six people in Jamaica in the last few weeks.

While it means that some have opted not to get the vaccine, Minister of Health Dr. Christopher Tufton says it’s more than have taken it previously.

“It’s a voluntary process. In the past, I’m told that between 25 and 30 per cent would opt not to be vaccinated. Vaccination really represents you being injected with a small dosage of the virus and then you develop your own systems to fight it and some people have a difficulty with that,” he said.

The National Influenza Centre has reported 71 confirmed cases of influenza so far this year, 66 of which were Influenza A (H1N1) and the remaining five were different strains of the virus.

All of the six who died after contracting H1N1, including a pregnant woman and two doctors, were high risk as they also had other complications, including lung and heart-related illnesses.

Dr. Tufton said that since the outbreak and the tragic loss of a few of the island’s health practitioners, “we have seen a greater take-up, which we think is a good idea.”

In the meantime, he noted that the Ministry has ordered additional vaccines from Trinidad, which are expected to be in the island shortly.

The vaccine is also available at private health care facilities at a cost of J$1,200 (US$9.86) to J$1,500 (US$12.33) per dose.

Dr. Tufton said all registered physicians are now able to prescribe Tamiflu, the antiviral medication used for treating influenza, adding that instructions for preparations to begin for the next flu season have already been given.

Symptoms of the H1N1 virus are similar to seasonal influenza and may include sneezing, coughing, runny and stuffy nose, fatigue and headache.(Caribbean 360)

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