Maldives assures “no difficulty” in acquiring influenza vaccines amidst epidemic

Health Minister Abdulla Nazim speaks to Mihaaru. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

Health Minister Abdulla Nazim speaks to Mihaaru. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/MIHAARU

There is sufficient amount of influenza vaccines and other medication necessary for the treatment of flu, including cases of swine flu, spreading across the Maldives, assured Minister of Health Abdulla Nazim on Wednesday.

Health Protection Agency (HPA) had announced in its first press conference regarding the swine flu epidemic on Monday that, according to doctors, there is only a “limited stock” of influenza vaccines in the island nation.

However, Health Minister Nazim told Mihaaru on Wednesday that the public might misunderstand the statement which could result in “alarming” repercussions. He explained that influenza vaccines are imported to the Maldives specifically for precautionary treatment of pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia on the holy Islamic pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah. Though not a commonly available medication, he stated that sufficient stocks are always available in the Maldives.

The minister assured that even now there is an adequate amount of influenza vaccines to combat the spreading of the H1N1 virus, and that more are on the way.

“This is not something we can import in bulk and store; it can only be brought in according to demand. More stock will arrive next week,” he said as he asserted that there is “no difficulty” in acquiring the influenza vaccines.

“We’re getting a lot of help from WHO and UNICEF. The vaccines are sent from UNICEF and they have vowed to aid [the Maldives during the epidemic]. I’m certain that even our neighbouring nations will provide aid if we request it of them.”

Currently, doctors are administering influenza vaccinations only to pregnant women. Nazim declared that should doctors recommend to vaccinate children as well, prompt arrangements will be made accordingly.

According to Minister Nazim, the Maldives has enough stock for pregnant women and for patients infected with swine flu. He reiterated that orders are being placed for more medicine according to demand.

“[Influenza vaccine] is prescribed in very rare cases. When I talked to the doctors, they said it is not needed in large amounts; that it is used in very severe cases. Normally, they prescribe paracetamol and [advise patients to] take lots of liquids, control sleep and take rest. The most important thing is to prevent [the virus] transmission.”

Currently, 279 people with flu symptoms have tested for swine flu of which 82 (29 percent) have tested positive, according to HPA’s latest statistics on Wednesday. Two people have died from swine flu so far.

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