400,000 to get flu jabs
The Public Health Ministry is preparing to vaccinate 400,000 people in risky groups against the strain of influenza that has recently spread widely in certain parts of United States."We will vaccinate about 100,000 people this month," Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong said yesterday. He explained that up to 400,000 people should be vaccinated by March, especially those in the high-risk group such as pregnant women, people with chronic diseases and medical workers.
Pradit said the vaccination would be able to deal with flu strains of the H3N2 type, which is not as virulent as the H1N1 bird flu.
"We also have medication to deal with the H3N2 strain that has now spread in the US," she said, adding that it would take time for this strain to reach Thai soil. "The influenza strain will possibly be here in the middle of the year," he said, adding that at the most, about 20,000 to 30,000 Thais will be affected.
According to Pradit, 28,747 people in the United States' northeastern zone had come down with this strain of flu between September 30 and January 5, of whom 20 have succumbed.
In Thailand, influenza hit 61,296 people and killed three last year.
Chulalongkorn University's virologist Yong Poovorawan said he supported the vaccination plan, but added that in order to prevent an epidemic, more than 50 per cent of the population would have to be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Thai Airways International has already asked its cabin crew to monitor all passengers heading to Bangkok from Los Angeles to see if they might have any flu symptoms. "The situation, so far, is not worrying because the flu has not spread throughout the US," THAI president Sorachak Kasemsuwan said yesterday.
However, he said, the airline would consult the Disease Control Department to determine what further actions should be taken.