SANTIAGO – The Chilean government has purchased 2 million doses of the vaccine against the AH1N1 flu virus for the immunization campaign that begins in the second half of March, the Health Ministry said.
The vaccine is expected to arrive in Chile early next month and will be provided free to health workers, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses and children ages 6-24 months.
Each dose cost $6, bringing the total to $12 million.
People older than 60 will be excluded from the priority group this year unless they suffer from chronic health conditions.
The decision to exclude the elderly was made because “the only virus circulating in the country is AH1N1” this season, with the seasonal flu strain barely registering, Deputy Health Secretary Jeanette Vega told Radio Cooperativa.
The way the swine flu has developed has demonstrated that those born before 1957 are immunized against the AH1N1 strain, Vega said.
The decision could be reversed if conditions change, Vega said, adding that the Health Ministry has 500,000 additional vaccine doses on hand.
Those who are not members of the priority groups can obtain vaccinations from the private sector without a prescription, but they should only do so under a doctor’s orders, Vega said.
A total of 110,000 vaccine doses purchased by pharmaceutical company Biosano arrived in Chile on Monday from China and will be provided to pharmacies, clinics and private health centers offering vaccinations.
These shots, marketed as Bio Flu, will cost around $24 per dose.
In 2009, swine flu affected 368,129 people in Chile, resulting in 150 deaths, the Health Ministry said in a report.
The year 2010 will be “a very mild year in terms of influenza, with activity mainly from the pandemic strain and no other strain circulating in the country,” Vega said. EFE