Greater Accra Region administers more than 300,000 H1N1 vaccines

Despite the rumours of deaths allegedly caused by the Influenza H1N1 2009 vaccination, which caused fear and panic, the Greater Accra Regional Health Directorate vaccinated 306,592 persons against the influenza as at the end of July.

Those vaccinated included 26,687 health workers, 15,811 security personnel, 24,496 pregnant women, 18,836 people with chronic diseases, 12,867 international travellers and 207,895 from the general public.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Tuesday, Dr Vera Opata, one of the H1N1 Focal Persons in the Region, said initially the vaccine was meant for priority groups, which were health workers, security personnel, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases.

“However, football fans, who wanted to watch the World Cup in South Africa, put so much pressure and demand on us that we failed to embark on enough public education.”

Dr Opata acknowledged that not much public education on the vaccination and its adverse effects was not done saying this contributed to the public outcry when those, who went for the vaccination started experiencing the common adverse effects.

It was rumoured in June and July that two people had died after taking shots of the vaccine and many were being hospitalised. This put a lot of fear into those, who wanted to go for the vaccination for fear of possible death.

Pandemic Influenza H1N1 2009 is a disease that is caused by a virus affecting the respiratory system. The symptoms of the influenza are fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Complications of the disease include pneumonia and difficulty in breathing. Death may occur in persons who have other medical problems and complications.

Dr Opata explained that the two alleged deaths were thoroughly investigated and a series of tests were run. It was revealed that their deaths were not linked in any way to the vaccine but each of them had illnesses that caused their deaths.

She noted that “like all medicines, Pandemrix vaccine can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them; allergic reactions may occur following vaccination, but in rare cases do they lead to shock.

“The very common adverse effects found are headache, tiredness, pain, redness, swelling or hard lump at the injection site, fever, aching muscles and joint pains.

Common adverse effects are warmth, itching or bruising at the injection site, swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin.

Uncommon adverse effects are tingling or numbness of the hand or feet, sleepiness, dizziness, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, feeling sick, sleeplessness and general feeling of being unwell.

In rare cases, adverse effects are stabbing, pain along one or more nerves, low blood platelet count which can result in bleeding or bruising and in very rare situations, vasculitis which is inflammation of the blood vessels causing skin rashes, joint pain and kidney problems and neurological disorders.

Dr Opata disclosed that out of the total recorded cases of people, who had been vaccinated, only 360 representing 0.1 per cent reported adverse effects to health facilities and all were classified under the common side effects which were managed and discharged.

She said the vaccination was ongoing whilst the Health Directorate was re-educating health workers to empower them to provide detailed public education before and after vaccination.

“They will provide more information to their clients so that they could make informed choices,” she added.

She entreated the general public who had not yet gone for the vaccine to do so since there were a few left in public hospitals.

“Pandemrix is highly safe and there have been several clinical studies to ensure its safety on human beings,” she said.

Source: GNA

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