Seasonal flu vaccine this week

Vaccine for the seasonal flu will be available at the Cayman Islands Hospital, District Health Centres, Faith Hospital and Little Cayman clinic from today [Wednesday, 7 October].

Two types of vaccine are being offered this year: one for the season flu (regular flu) and the other for the 2009 H1N1 flu, said Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kiran Kumar.

The seasonal flu vaccine will not provide protection against the 2009 H1N1 flu. A vaccine for that strain is due to arrive in Cayman in late October or November, Dr. Kumar said.

‘We recommend that people get vaccinated as soon as possible and definitely before the peak of the flu season which ranges between December and January,’ Dr. Kumar says.

People can receive the regular flu vaccine at the General Practice Clinic at the Cayman Islands Hospital, Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and all District Health Centres, from 2pm to 4pm Mondays through Fridays.

It will be also be available at the Little Cayman Clinic and residents of Little Cayman are advised to contact the clinic to make arrangements to get the flu jab.

The flu vaccine is free to all residents. No appointments are necessary.

Dr. Kumar advised that the vaccine is only effective for one season. Therefore, people at high risk for complications from influenza and those who live with or care for high-risk people should be vaccinated early each year.

The flu vaccine will be offered to the following priority groups from 7-20 October: Young children aged six months to four years of age; pregnant women (with prescription from obstetrician); people aged 65 years and older; people of any age with weakened immune systems and those with chronic medical conditions such as heart, kidney and lung diseases and diabetes; people living in nursing homes and other long term care facilities.

This group is also advised to get the vaccine each year.

From 21 October, until supplies have been exhausted, the vaccine will be available to the general public.

‘To minimise workplace disruption and ensure that as many persons as possible get vaccinated, I am also pleased to announce that our Public Health Department will continue our programme of onsite workplace vaccination initiative for companies with 10 or more employees wishing to have the vaccine’ said Dr. Kumar.

Companies interested in the programme should contact the Public Health Department at 244-2648 to register.

Although anyone who can get a seasonal influenza vaccine, it is recommended that certain people should get vaccinated each year. These are people who are at high risk of having serious seasonal flu-related complications or people who live with or care for those at high risk for serious seasonal flu-related complications.

Others who are advised to get the flu vaccinations are people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu; health care workers; household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu; household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than six months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated); children five to 18 years of age and persons 50-65 years of age.

The annual flu vaccine is also recommended for people who provide essential services and those living in correctional facilities. The vaccine is available to anyone who wishes to receive it.

The following people should not be vaccinated without first consulting their physician: People who have severe allergy to chicken or chicken eggs; those who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past; people who developed Guillian-Barre’ syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting a vaccine previously; and people who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait to get vaccinated.

The “flu shot” is administered in the Cayman Islands with a needle, usually in the arm. The vaccine is approved for use among people six months of age or older, including healthy people and those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease

The seasonal influenza vaccine contains – one A (H3N2) virus, one A (H1N1) virus (not the 2009 H1N1 virus), and one B virus.

Initial doses of 2009 H1N1 vaccine are expected to be available later in October or November. This 2009 H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine – it is intended to be used along-side seasonal flu vaccine, Dr. Kumar said.

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.

The flu season is usually from November through April each year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and lessen the chance that you will transmit to others.

The Health Services Authority recommends that people get their seasonal flu vaccine as soon as the vaccine becomes available. Vaccination before December is best since this timing ensures that protective antibodies are in place before flu activity is typically at its highest.

For more information please contact:

  • Public Health Clinic at 244-2648
  • The General Practice Unit at 244-2800
  • Faith Hospital at 948-2243
  • Little Cayman Clinic at 948-0114
  • The District Health Centres
  • East End 947-7440
  • North Side 947-9525
  • West Bay 949-3439
  • Bodden Town 947-2299