HEALTH Minister Terrence Deyalsingh expressed satisfaction with ongoing efforts to vaccinate the population against influenza A and B.
He spoke during an influenza drive hosted by the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) on Harris Promenade, San Fernando on Wednesday.
Deyalsingh said, "Last year we did roughly 26,000 doses for the entire season, which runs from October of any year to May of the following year."
He was happy with the number of doses administered so far for this year.
"This year so far, pleasantly, we have done 17,507 (influenza doses)."
Deyalsingh added that this year, there have been five deaths due to influenza A and B. To date, he said there have been 977 cases of influenza.
Did lessons learnt from administering covid19 vaccines contribute to the increased numbers of people being vaccinated against influenza this year?
Deyalsingh said, "I think that's a distinct possibility."
Despite vaccine hesitancy by some people over covid19, and other people subscribing to covid19 vaccine-conspiracy theories, Deyalsingh said, "The fact is that 51.3 per cent of the population got vaccinated against covid.
"That cohort of people believe in the science, believe in facts and don't subscribe to conspiracy theories."
He was happy this belief is being reflected in this season's flu vaccination drive.
He stressed the difference between flu and the common cold.
"The common cold doesn't land you in hospital. It doesn't get you seriously ill. You ride it out."
In the case of influenza, Deyalsingh said, "You can go from being well to being dead within 24 hours."
Influenza is defined as an infection of the nose, throat and lungs, which are part of the respiratory system. Flu vaccines do not work against the common cold.
Of the four strains of flu virus (A, B, C and D), only A and B affect humans. Deyalsingh recalled that influenza A caused a global flu pandemic in 2009.
As the ministry and regional health authorities continue their public influenza outreach and vaccination drives, Deyalsingh reminded the public that Christmas and Carnival are two periods of the year when the flu is common.
Before the influx of visitors for Christmas and Carnival, he said, the hope was to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible "to break the train of transmission."