Vaccination against  swine flu kicks off

The first wave of vaccinations against the A (H1N1) virus began on 5,000 health professionals on Monday.

Over the next two weeks, 54,000 people in Portugal from a total of 360,000 in priority group A will be given the swine flu jab.

The priority group is made up of people whose jobs are considered essential to the country such as doctors, healthcare workers and security forces.

However, several health professionals are refusing to be vaccinated either because of indifference or because they don’t trust the vaccine.

In order to set an example, and show that the benefits of taking the Pandemrix vaccine outweigh the possible dangers, the Director-General of Health, Francisco Jorge, was one of the first to be vaccinated on Monday under the full glare of media publicity.

Francisco Jorge has admitted that medical staff refusing to be vaccinated could generate distrust among the general population but stressed that there was “no scientific evidence against receiving the A (H1N1) vaccine.”

The next wave of vaccinations in group A, which will begin in two weeks time, will be aimed at pregnant women with associated chronic diseases and some diabetics. Other Group A candidates include those with heart, lung and liver problems.

Group B include pregnant women, asthmatics and those with immune system deficiencies.

Group C include children under the age of 12, the extremely overweight, blood donors and other essential service professionals.    

Under the Portuguese National Health’s Vaccination Plan, health centres and hospitals have the capacity to administer 300,000 doses of the vaccine in just 15 days.

“We calculate to have administered one million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year,” said Francisco Jorge.

Possible side effects of the vaccine include rashes, itching, fever, muscle and joint pains, tiredness and headaches.  

According to the latest Ministry of Health bulletin for the week ending October 18, 3,044 new cases of seasonal flu including the A (H1N1) strain were registered in Portugal bringing the total register of flu-like illnesses to just over 20,000 cases since the epidemic began.

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