A(H1N1) vaccines free until Sept 15 — DOH

Filipinos will have until September 15 to get A(H1N1) vaccines free of charge from government health centers, health authorities said Wednesday.

"Itong [free vaccination] ay hanggang September 15. Ang kababayan natin pwedeng bumisita sa health center. Magpabakuna kayo, September 15 ang huling araw ng pagbakuna," Dr. Eric Tayag, head of the Department of Health (DOH)-National Epidemiology Center, said in an interview on dzXL radio.

(The free vaccination will run until September 15. Until then, please visit our health centers.)

The DOH has remained on heightened vigilance since the World Health Organization declared the world was already shifting to post-pandemic period of A(H1N1), commonly known as swine flu.

Secretary Enrique Ona earlier said the DOH has continued early detection and surveillance activities for the disease to prevent possible outbreaks.

"We shall also intensify our vaccination strategy in targeting our health workers and high-risk groups which include pregnant women, the very young and the elderly, the immuno-compromised and those with chronic conditions, i.e., asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes, cardiovascular disease," Ona said.

He said the post-pandemic phase means the A(H1N1) virus has taken on a behavior and intensity similar to that of the regular seasonal flu viruses.

It also means one should expect sustained community level transmission and localized outbreaks of A(H1N1) in the coming years.

He added that the country’s experience in handling the A(H1N1) pandemic of 2009 showed the government's capacity to respond to this emerging challenge.

As of July 2010, 49 percent of 11,904 specimens submitted in 2009 for analysis have tested positive for A(H1N1), he said.

Ona also noted the government’s efforts against A(H1N1) received praise from the WHO. He encouraged health workers and citizens who belong to vulnerable groups to avail of the vaccines the government has been providing for free since early this year. — LBG/RSJ, GMANews.TV