[WATCH] Free influenza vaccine available from today

Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci says that persons over 55, children under five, and those suffering from chronic illnesses were especially vulnerable and should take the influenza vaccine

Last year, there were 162 cases of influenza per 1,000 cases, with the peak being registered between 7-13 January
Last year, there were 162 cases of influenza per 1,000 cases, with the peak being registered between 7-13 January

Persons over of 55, children under the age of five and those suffering from chronic illnesses are "highly" encouraged to take the influenza vaccine, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci said. 

Gauci told MaltaToday, the ministry of health was encouraging all to take the influenza vaccine, which would be available free of charge at health centres and local councils from today.

However, she put special emphasis on vulnerable groups who she said were more at risk: "We know from previous years that the majority of people suffering from chronic illnesses, who contract influenza end up having to be hospitalised."  

Gauci also highlighted that women who were pregnant also had a higher chance of getting the virus. "It’s also important to note, especially for women giving birth during the influenza season, that by getting the vaccination they are also protecting their newborn, who otherwise would not be able to receive the vaccination until they are six months old."

She said that persons often confused the common cold with influenza. "The common cold is milder - while influenza includes a high fever, and tends to leave persons bedridden."

Persons with chronic illnesses 'highly encouraged' to take influenza vaccine

On Saturday, Health Minister Chris Fearne said that 100,000 doses of the influenza vaccination would be available from Monday. The service will first be available to children aged five and less, people aged over 65, and people with chronic illnesses. From next week, however, the vaccination will be available to all. 

Fearne said the cost of this exercise was €4 million, with the service being provided free of charge at health centres and local councils.

He said that the vaccination was one way to decrease the chances of influenza, adding that as a contagious disease it is given priority because of its effects on society. He said the vaccination should be administered in October or, at the latest, in November so that the best protection is afforded when influenza is at its peak. 

Last year, there were 162 cases of influenza per 1,000 persons, with the peak being registered between 7-13 January. 

Monitoring for influenza started on 29 September, with 6.552 cases per 1,000 persons registered.

Between October 2018 and May 2019, some 9,690 patients were examined for respiratory issues, with 642 resulting positive to influenza A H1Ni; 448 for Influenza H3 and three for Influenza B.

 Vaccination is available between 8am and 1pm between Monday and Friday, and from 8am to noon on Saturdays.

The Mosta, Floriana and Paola health centres will also be open between 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

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