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Medics encourage seasonal influenza immunisation

The National Centre for Mother and Child Health's Expanded Programme of Immunisation is continuing to provide H1N1, H3N2 and Brifgane/60/2008 seasonal influenza vaccinations to at-risk groups as these viruses have been reported in some neighbouring countries.

Deputy Manager of the programme, Dr Kongxay Phounphenghack, told Vientiane Times the programme would persist due to the seasonal viruses still threatening people's health in the region.

“These three vaccines - H1N1, H3N2 and Brifgane/60/2008 - are available in one shot. This year, vaccinations are being provided for target groups to make sure they have full immunity against these viruses,” he said.

Due to the complexities of seasonal influenza activity in the tropics and subtropics, such as multiple peaks and identifiable year-round activity, two challenging questions to these countries are when to vaccinate and which formulation (northern or southern hemisphere) to use.

The World Health Organisation recommends seasonal influenza vaccination for at-risk groups, with the highest priority being pregnant women. Other at-risk groups, in no particular order, are children aged 6-59 months, the elderly, individuals with specific chronic medical conditions and health-care workers. Government staffers are also on the list to receive vaccinations.

Today, mothers-to-be and people suffering from chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, low or high blood pressure, obesity, rhinitis and other chronic diseases are advised to receive a shot at a nearby hospital.

Dr Kongsay said vaccination was the most effective way to prevent infection and severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses.

Laos has been using seasonal influenza vaccinations in the national immunisation programme since 2012.

From an antigenic evolution perspective, there is no evidence to suggest the need for a third recommendation for vaccine composition specifically for the tropics and subtropics. The most recent WHO influenza virus vaccine recommendation should be used, independent of the hemisphere in which the country is situated.

WHO also recommends that based on the start of the primary influenza activity period, countries are assigned to two categories:

• countries where the primary influenza activity starts after October, and

• countries where the primary influenza activity starts after April.

In order to be most effective in countries with multiple peaks and residual year-round activity, WHO recommends that the seasonal influenza vaccination should be given prior to the start of the primary period of increased influenza activity.

Countries are encouraged to analyse local surveillance information to assess their seasonality pattern at both national and sub-national levels as appropriate to make evidence-based decisions on the timing of vaccination campaigns.

According to the WHO in Myanmar, a recent outbreak of H1N1 in the country is not unusual for the time of the year, and while there may be more cases in the future the available data suggests it is not a cause for panic.

Myanmar's state media reported that since July 21 there had been 166 confirmed cases and 17 deaths from the virus, known commonly as swine flu, after a global pandemic in 2009 was found to have originated in infected pigs. The respiratory infection is now considered a normal human flu.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update September 9, 2017)

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