Possible side effects of flu vaccine should not act as a deterrent

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by Juan Ameen, 8 Oct 2006

People over 55 can go their family doctor to have the flu vaccine instead of at the health clinics and pay only the doctor’s fee.

The Association of Private Family Doctors spokesperson Martin Borg said that this year doctors will be given flu vaccines for their patients who are entitled to receive it for free from the State health services.

In a recent press release, Director of Primary Health Andrew Amato Gauci said this step “aims to increase the influenza vaccination coverage while making it easier for those who prefer to be vaccinated by their family doctor.”

Dr Borg said it was advisable for everyone, especially those at high risk to take the flu vaccine. These include people over 55 and those suffering from chronic respiratory conditions (asthma and chronic obstructive airways disease), heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure. He added that those who take it for the first time might suffer from side effects.

“It is possible that first time users might feel slight side effects. However, these are normal as the vaccine is preparing to protect the body from the flu.

“It is important that possible side effects do not act as a deterrent for people taking the vaccine for the first time. Once a person takes the vaccine regularly, the possibility of side effects will lessen,” he said.

One of the highest vaccination rates was registered last year, due to the avian flu scare. Dr Borg hoped that this year the vaccination rate will be just as high.

As the number of the elderly population increases, future influenza epidemics will be associated with ever-increasing hospitalisation rates and excess mortality unless adequate prophylactic measures are taken.

In developed countries, about 100 people per million population die annually from influenza. In Malta, this would amount to 40 deaths for a population of 400,000. Most deaths (95 per cent) occur in those over 65.

It has been estimated that the cumulative mortality of annual influenza epidemics in the last century exceeded that of the three pandemics. This shows that influenza remains the main major health threat worldwide.

Members of the public who would like to make use of this service are urged to book the vaccine at their family doctor. Vaccination is expected to start at the end of October.

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