‘Minister of Health Dr the Hon Hubert A Minnis (right) on Monday said healthcare officials from the Department of Public Health and the Grand Bahama Health System will begin offering free vaccinations for the Influenza A(HINI) Virus to persons most “at-risk” to contract the virus. The announcement was made at the Ministry of Health’s Headquarters, Meeting Street. Also pictured with Dr Minnis (at left) Camille Johnson, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, and Dr Pearl McMillan, Director of Public Health, Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health.
Nassau, Bahamas — The Ministry of Health will begin to administer free vaccinations for the Influenza A (HINI) Virus to 30,000 of the most “at-risk” Bahamians as early as next week, Minister of Health Dr the Hon Hubert A Minnis said on Monday.
The vaccinations will be administered by healthcare professionals of the Department of Public Health and the Grand Bahama Health Services.
Dr Minnis said that as with the vaccine for seasonal influenza, persons with allergies to eggs should not receive the Influenza A(HINI) vaccine.
Dr Minnis said the Government of The Bahamas purchased the 30,000 vaccines at a cost of $250,000, through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The vaccines will initially be distributed to persons considered to be “most at risk for serious disease” including all infants between the ages of six months to two years of age, and children and young adults between the ages of 10-19 years of age with underlying risk factors such as asthma and other lung diseases, heart disease, cerebral palsy and seizures.
Pregnant women will also be included in the first wave, in addition to educators and healthcare workers who provide care and attention to the at-risk group.
“Children and young adults continue to account for those developing the most serious forms of the illness (and therefore) these two groups are among those targeted to receive the vaccinations first,” Dr Minnis said.
“Global statistics have shown that there is a high mortality rate (with regards to illnesses associated with the A(HINI) Virus) amongst pregnant women and so they must also be protected and have been included in this first group of persons to receive the vaccinations,” Dr Minnis added.
Dr Minnis said the Government of The Bahamas is “committed” to protecting the public’s health.
He said it is imperative that parents of infants, children, adolescents and young adults who fall in the at-risk category ensure that their children receive the vaccines.
The Health Minister said it is “important for parents to be aware” that in order to be fully protected, children ten years and younger must receive a second dose of the vaccine one month after the first dose.
“While healthcare providers will make every effort to schedule return visits, it is important for parents to keep the appointment so that these children are protected to the greatest extent possible,” Dr Minnis added.
The Health Minister said the 30,000 vaccines, which recently arrived in New Providence, will be more than adequate to ensure that persons who fall with in the “at-risk category” are inoculated against the Virus.
A second shipment is expected to arrive in The Bahamas shortly “for all other persons who wish to be vaccinated” against the Influenza A(HINI) Virus.
Dr Minnis said healthcare professionals anticipate that the first series of vaccinations will be completed in one month’s time. He said the schedule will be extended as more vaccines become available.
Dr Minnis said while healthcare officials have recently reported that the number of new influenza-like illnesses are beginning to decrease, it is still “early in the influenza season” and that persons should remain vigilant in the event that a third wave occurs later in the season.
“For this reason we are strongly recommending that persons in the at-risk groups take advantage of the vaccinations being offered,” The Health Minister added.
Dr Minnis said the vaccines being offered free of charge are safe.
“The only difference between this vaccine and the seasonal influenza vaccine is the strain of influenza against which it is targeted. The manufacturing is the same,” he added.