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Stocks of new flu jab coming soon

 
  Thursday, 02 l 09 l 2010 Source: Mind Your Body; The Straits Times   
By: Joan Chew
     
 

Many clinics, with their stocks depleted after the mid-year flu season, are expecting the Northern Hemisphere vaccine soon. JOAN CHEW reports

flu jabFor the past three months, some clinics here had either been running low on the Southern Hemisphere flu vaccine or had run out of it altogether. This was largely fuelled by the peak holiday travel season and the flu season which coincided in June.

However, it is September and the latest flu vaccine – the Northern Hemisphere jab – should soon be available at your nearest clinic or polyclinic.

The good news is that if you have already had last season’s jab, you do not need to be revaccinated. The Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine contains the same viruses as the Southern Hemisphere vaccine this time round.

A check with 10 family clinics islandwide last week showed that three had run out of the Southern Hemisphere flu jab, which has a cocktail of three influenza viruses: A/H3N2 virus, B virus, and the pandemic A/H1N1 virus.

The three clinics – Lee & Tan Family Clinic & Surgery, GP Medical Centre & Surgery and Tay Medical Centre – said their patients could either go to other clinics for the jab or place an order with them for the new vaccine.

Dr Vincent Chia, the deputy medical director of Healthway Medical which has more than 60 clinics islandwide, said the group’s vaccine supply too was “almost zero”.

Old vaccine crunch ends It is just as well that demand at this time is not high, he added. This is because the peak school holiday season ended about three months ago.

In June, the supply crunch was more pronounced. The Straits Times reported then that polyclinics were out of flu vaccines and GP clinics were low on stock.

Clinics said the lack of vaccines was due to a global shortage from high demand in many countries.

A spokesman for Raffles Medical said the demand was high in June as more families were travelling during the school vacation.

With the mid-year flu season over, the stock level for the Southern Hemisphere flu vaccine at the Raffles Medical chain of 43 clinics is “healthy” now. The chain has enough to supply the current demand for vaccines from individuals and corporate companies, added the spokesman.

National Healthcare Group’s polyclinics and public hospitals like Khoo Teck Puat Hospital currently also have stocks of the Southern Hemisphere flu vaccine.

The combination in seasonal flu vaccines is changed twice a year by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in accordance with the Northern and Southern Hemisphere’s winter seasons. 

People normally take the Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine between the months of October and March and the Southern Hemisphere one between April and September.

Flu vaccines are updated to contain the current circulating viruses which are continuously evolving.

The WHO’s website shows that the recommended viruses for the new Northern Hemisphere flu vaccine are the same as the current Southern Hemisphere one.

Those who have not had the chance to be vaccinated earlier can go for the jabs when the new vaccine is more readily available, Dr Chia from Healthway Medical advised.

Flu shots give protection for one year.

New vaccine available some of the first few clinics to get the Northern Hemisphere vaccine are SingHealth’s nine polyclinics. They have had stocks of the new Northern strain seasonal flu vaccine since last Thursday, a spokesman said.

The spokesman added that 500 doses are now available and an additional 600 will be available from next Monday.

Frequent travellers should consider getting the flu jab.

Dr Michael Wong, the director of the Health for Life Clinic which provides travel medicine services at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, said that people travelling between hemispheres may need to be vaccinated every six months if the viruses contained within the vaccines are different.

However, since they are the same this time round, a person who had the Southern strain vaccine earlier will not require the latest vaccine if he is travelling to the United States or Britain later this year.

People in high risk groups should take the flu vaccine if they have not had one this year.

Dr Chng Shih Kiat, the deputy medical director of Raffles Medical, said: “Those in the high-risk group such as the elderly with chronic diseases, patients with low immunity or children below five years have a higher chance of developing complications from flu.”

Even then, people should understand that the flu vaccine does not offer full protection. Dr Wong said that it is “only 70 to 90 per cent effective”.

He said: “Although one may have been vaccinated against the prevailing viral strains, one may still be infected with a strain the vaccine does not cover and may fall ill.”

Two seasonal vaccines

The combination of influenza viruses in seasonal flu vaccines is changed twice a year by the World Health Organisation in accordance with the Northern and Southern Hemisphere’s winter seasons.

People normally take the Northern flu vaccine between the months of October and March and the Southern one between April and September.

Flu vaccines are updated to contain the current circulating viruses which are continuously evolving.

     
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