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Namibia has no flu vaccine

20th April 2010

The 15% of Namibia's population that is immuno-compromised due to HIV infection may have an unusually high risk of getting the flu this winter, unless the country can get hold of some seasonal flu vaccine.

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There is a shortage of seasonal flu vaccines this year because manufacturers devoted most of their capacity to producing large numbers of H1N1 swine flu vaccine.

As a result, some people in Namibia may have to do without the vaccine, leaving young children and older people in danger.

And people who have chronic diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, heart disease, and HIV are also in danger, due to the fact that they are immuno-compromised.

A Namibian doctor said that the fact that the country was entirely out of seasonal flu vaccines was bad news, and presented a dangerous situation for people.

But the company Sanofi Pasteur, the producer of the seasonal flu vaccine Vaxigrip, said that the government of South Africa had made an unusually large order of seasonal flu vaccines, at almost five and a half times that of their regular tender amounts from previous years.

The South African government, which wants to make flu shots available for the general public, may have made its unusually large order as a way of stockpiling in advance of the Fifa World Cup.

In a leaflet distributed in Namibia, Sanofi Pasteur also said that the production cost of the seasonal flu vaccine was much higher than usual, due to the fact that the H1N1 strain had been added to the mixture, meaning that Vaxigrip would not be available on the market in 2010.

Willie van Wyk, a representative of the Namibian pharmaceutical distributor Geka Pharma, said that the vaccine shortage was due to the astounding production cost of adding swine flu vaccine to seasonal flu vaccine.

He said that people whose immune systems were low should stock up on immune boosters, and be careful during the winter.

A Namibian biologist said that people would have to get treated after they had already come down with the flu, and that the country had enough Tamiflu in reserve to treat flu sufferers.

A pharmacist on the health24.com website, a South African health information portal, said that some manufacturers had switched to producing the swine flu vaccine last year, and stopped producing the normal vaccine altogether.

Namibia is the second most sparsely populated country in the world, after Mongolia.

 

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