The Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 vaccination, which is ongoing in Health facilities across the country, has been well received by Batswana. The campaign started on the 21st June 2010 and will go on until the 17th August 2010, and has been rolled out into four phases with the first targeting health workers, officers at ports of entry, pregnant women, people with diabetes, heart diseases, asthma, high blood pressure, and cancers aged eleven to sixty four years.
Phase two targets children aged six months to ten years, while Phase Three targets eleven to thirty nine year olds and Phase four targets everyone above the age of thirty nine years.
Addressing a media conference at the Ministry of Health Headquarters in Gaborone last Thursday, the Director of Public Health, Sheenaz El-Halabi, told journalists her ministry is encouraged by the positive attitude and numbers of people who have voluntarily turned up to be vaccinated so far.
“Batswana have gotten the message and the response is positive. This is in line with our NDP 10, which emphasizes the need to take personal responsibility of our health. Prevention is one such responsibility,” she said. The vaccine protects for one year.
The Vaccine is a donation from the World Health Organisation, who gave 1.6 million doses of vaccine as well as syringes, almost enough to cover one hundred percent of the population. It will be administered free of charge and is available at Public Health facilities throughout the country as well as some private medical practitioners who have agreed to vaccinate at no price. Other countries, like Namibia and South Africa, only received ten percent donations.
Botswana is administering the Inactivated type of vaccine, which is administered on the muscle, usually on the upper arm. El Halabi further stated that this vaccination is safe even for breastfeeding women as well as HIV positive people and will only be done during routine working hours and not on weekends. She said this is a WHO pre-qualified vaccine and has gone through safety and efficiency clinic trials and has no serious side effects.
“As of early May 2010 more than 400 million doses of pandemic influenza (H1N1) vaccine had been administered worldwide, not a single adverse event that would call safety of the vaccine into question has been confirmed to date,” she asserted.