Pregnant women and other people at high risk should be vaccinated against the H1N1 swine flu virus as the cold weather begins to bite in the northern hemisphere, the World Health Organization said yesterday.
It voiced concern that some vulnerable people are shying away from the pandemic vaccine, which the WHO stressed had not caused any unusual side effects in hundreds of thousands of people to have received it worldwide so far.
“Certainly the fact that the vaccine isn’t being used by those who would have access to it and who would be in priority risk groups is of concern, yes,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told a news briefing.
A flu epidemic in Ukraine — with more than 250,000 cases and 70 deaths from acute respiratory illness — may be an “early warning signal” as winter sets in, the WHO said.
“The outbreak in Ukraine may be indicative of how the virus can behave in the northern hemisphere during the winter season, particularly in health care settings typically found in Eastern Europe,” the WHO said in a statement.
Unlike seasonal flu, which is most dangerous to the elderly, H1N1 is hitting younger adults and children especially hard.