Mass swine flu inoculation gets under way - The Best from Greece

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Posted on: 17/Nov/2009

Minister receives jab in bid to allay fears


Health Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou gets vaccinated against swine flu yesterday. Her decision to get the jab this week, set aside for the inoculation of health workers, was seen as a bid to reassure reluctant citizens.

As a national program for the inoculation of the population against swine flu was launched yesterday with hospital staff and private doctors getting their jabs, Health Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou got the vaccine herself in a bid to reassure citizens worried about the safety of the drug.

“The vaccine constitutes an important weapon and shield for public health in the face of the new flu pandemic,” Xenogiannakopoulou told reporters outside Athens’s Evangelismos Hospital where she was vaccinated.

Evangelismos and other hospitals in the capital and elsewhere around the country reported receiving dozens of visits by health workers seeking their jabs to ward off the H1N1 virus. “I believe that we will see a positive reaction by hospital staff and doctors,” Panayiotis Kakolyris-Gargalianos, a pathologist at the capital’s G. Gennimatas Hospital told Kathimerini.

The general public is believed to be less willing to take the vaccine with a recent poll indicating that six in 10 Greeks do not intend to be inoculated. The impact on public opinion of the minister’s decision to get the jab, and the apparently positive response by health workers, will be clearer next week with the second phase of inoculation – on high-risk groups of citizens including the elderly and those with chronic health problems. The third phase, due to begin on December 1, foresees the vaccination of citizens aged between 18 and 49. And the final phase is to start on December 7 with the inoculation of children aged up to 17 and those over the age of 50.

Speculation about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine dominated television channels yesterday with most experts stressing the importance of inoculation while a few expressed reservations about the safety of the vaccine despite the reassurances of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Hellenic Thoracic Society, an association of experts on respiratory problems, yesterday said the jab should be taken by all citizens with fragile health. “The vaccine is safe – there is no justification for vulnerable citizens not taking it,” it said.

Meanwhile health authorities confirmed that another seven swine flu patients had been admitted to intensive-care units. Of the seven, six had been suffering from previous ailments when they were diagnosed with swine flu.



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