Peru begins vaccination for swine flu; invests $30 million in three-part campaign

Peru’s government said Friday it has invested more than 86 million soles, about $30 million, on a campaign to provide free vaccinations to approximately 3 million people for the AH1N1 flu virus. Peru’s Health Ministry said the immunization process will be provided in three stages and distributed to high risk groups, state news agency Andina reported.

The first stage, which began on Friday, will target 120,000 health-care workers in Lima and the port city of Callao. Another 1.5 million doses will be distributed after March 15 for health-care employees in other Peruvian regions as well as individuals with chronic health conditions. In the third stage, about 1 million doses will be distributed to pregnant women in at least their fourth month of gestation and indigenous communities.

Health Minister Oscar Ugarte said the swine flu immunizations for pregnant women and indigenous people will not include adjuvant, which is often included in vaccines to boost the recipient’s immune response.

“(The World Health Organization) has recommended that in the case of pregnant women and native populations the vaccine shouldn’t have adjuvant to avoid additional risks,” Ugarte said. “This technical recommendation has been taken into account in planning for the vaccination strategy to prevent transmission of the AH1N1 influenza.”

The head of the Pan-American Health Organization’s immunization department, Mario Martínez, said Peru’s health strategy to prevent the spread of AH1N1 has stood out in Latin America.

“The immunization is not an isolated act, but rather forms part of an integral strategy of prevention and health promotion that we’ve seen in Peru in the last few years, with a really remarkable effort, much better than other countries in the region,” Martínez told Andina.

The virus, declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, has been reported in 212 countries and caused 15,921 deaths worldwide as of Feb. 14, 2010.

Last December, Radio Programs Peru reported there had been 9,062 swine flu cases in Peru. The virus had caused more than 200 deaths in the Andean country.

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