Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh is appealing to citizens to get the influenza vaccine to prevent possible hospitalisation or even death during the flu season.
The season runs from October each year to May the following year.
Though the vaccine is available free of charge, it was found that only few people availed themselves of it.
During the North Central Regional Health Authority National Flu Vaccination Campaign launch at the Tunapuna market yesterday, Deyalsingh said certain groups were more susceptible to the flu virus, one of which was pregnant women.
“We are targeting pregnant women through antenatal clinics to vaccinate as (many as possible) of the 18,000 to 19,000 pregnant women we get every year.
“Adults who have diabetes, hypertension and obesity are also more susceptible, as are asthmatics and people who take steroids.
People who are on steroids have depressed immune systems because the steroids caused their immune systems to become compromised.”
The minister said children between six months and five years and cancer patients should also be vaccinated.
Explaining the choice of place for the launch, Deyalsingh said the ministry no longer had a reactive approach to health, but a proactive one, and was going to the people instead of waiting for the people to come to them.
“The market is a meeting place of people. We want to bring the vaccines to the people where they need them, where they meet and greet, and what better place than a market?
“It is the intention to bring the flu vaccines to all the market places throughout the country.”
He said that would continue at the Chaguanas, Pt Fortin, Siparia, and possibly Arima markets, with the ministry and the regional health authorities conducting their own special drive.
Noting that Britain’s current flu season was a “disaster” and people were dying because they could not get the vaccine, Deyalsingh said that was not going to happen in this country.
He said in 2015, eight people died during the flu season, when there were only 6,000 doses of the vaccine, but this was ramped up to 70,000 doses for the flu season 2016-2017.
“Do you know how many deaths there were that year? None. Absolutely none. We want to continue with that trend for this season.“ Vaccines are available at all 33 health centres throughout the country on Tuesdays and Thursdays.