Where’s swine flu vaccine, asks health minister

Minister of Health Mark Scotland has asked the Governor to intervene with UK authorities to send swine flu vaccines to Cayman as soon as possible.

Mr. Scotland said he was concerned that the UK had yet to allocate the H1N1 vaccine for local residents.

‘I am worried because we have not yet received a delivery date. I have therefore asked the Governor to intervene and request that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sends the doses as agreed,’ he said.

The UK agreed earlier this year to supply Cayman with the necessary H1N1 vaccine.

The Health Services Authority Medical Officer for Health Kiran Kumar has said he has requested enough vaccination doses for 55,000 people.

‘This agreement was made during a May 2009 meeting of Overseas Territories ministers and the FCO and was further confirmed by the UK Department of Health,’ Mr. Scotland said.

In response to questions from the Caymanian Compass to the UK Department of Health on when Cayman and other overseas territories could expect delivery of the H1N1 vaccine, a government spokesman earlier this week said: ‘We are in discussion with territory medical authorities about provision of the vaccines and will keep them informed of the delivery dates and arrangements.’

Mr. Scotland said he was particularly concerned because the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warns that there will be more illnesses, hospitalisations and deaths this flu season than normal.

A spike in flu activity is also expected in Cayman, especially in December and January, so there is an urgency to get the vaccine here as soon as possible, he said.

Cayman has already experienced double the usual number of flu cases seen at this time of year, and a total of 105 confirmed cases of H1N1 have been recorded locally, although medical professionals acknowledge the actual number of cases probably runs into the thousands, with the majority showing mild symptoms.

No Caribbean country has yet received H1N1 vaccine which, unlike the seasonal flu vaccine, is not available on the open market.

Mr. Scotland called on those in high-risk groups to get the seasonal vaccine: ‘This is the best step until the H1N1 vaccine is available here; we want everyone to stay as healthy as possible.’

Meanwhile, public health officials are also working with the Pan American Health Organisation to secure the vaccine. PAHO will distribute the vaccine within the region once supplies are on hand.

Once the H1N1 vaccine arrives in Cayman, the Health Services Authority will launch a vaccination programme that will start with high risk groups.

The first phase of vaccinations will focus on children younger than five, persons older than 64, those with underlying medical conditions, and essential workers, including those in health care.

The second phase of vaccination will include healthy children between 5 and 19 years of age and then healthy adults.