PHUKET TOWN: Doctors and nurses at Vachira Phuket Hospital on Monday became the first island residents to receive swine flu vaccinations.
The hospital has joined others around Thailand in kicking off the nationwide vaccination campaign, which aims to reduce the number of victims of an expected second wave of A(H1N1) influenza.
Dr Krit Sakulpat, Head of Community Medicine at Vachira Phuket, said medical staff were the obvious first choice to receive the vaccine.
“We’re giving first priority to our medical staff because if they catch the flu virus, who will take care of our patients?” he said.
Once Vachira’s medical staff have been inoculated, women over three months pregnant will be next to receive the vaccine.
“They will have much worse symptoms if they catch the flu. Any of them who need the vaccine but haven’t signed up for prenatal care and delivery at the hospital can contact our prenatal care clinic to be added to the list,” he said.
In around two weeks’ time, the program’s third phase will begin and patients with high-risk medical conditions will be vaccinated.
Such conditions include obesity, cancer, lung disease, asthma, heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes, thalassemia and HIV/Aids.
Thailand has ordered a total of 1,969,750 doses of the vaccine from French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Pasteur.
The Public Health Ministry, which is controlling the program, has allocated doses to three of Phuket’s three government hospitals: Vachira Phuket Hospital, Thalang Hospital and Patong Hospital.
Vachira requested enough doses to vaccinate 9,000 people, but will receive just 4,000.
Dr Krit said the vaccine would not cause serious allergic reactions, though some patients might feel faint or experience pain, a lowered heart rate, itchiness and swelling within 30 minutes of injection.
Surat Rodpai, a 46-year-old employee in the orthopedics ward, spoke to the Gazette 10 minutes after receiving the vaccine.
“I am afraid of catching the flu so I decided to get the injection,” he said. “I felt a bit unusual, but I have no symptoms now.”
Weeranut Jamjan, 30, said, “Normally I’m not allergic to any medicines, but this vaccine has caused slight muscular pain and feelings of lethargy.”
The vaccination program at Vachira will continue until the end of May.
Meanwhile, Thalang Hospital Director Anon Kaewbamroong said his hospital requested 2,500 doses, but thus far has received just 600.
He expected injections to start next week and continue until the end of March.
Patong Hospital Deputy Director Apantree Iamsakul said his hospital had received 260 doses of the vaccine and would start its program next week with vaccinations of staff and pregnant women.
— Pimwara Choksakulpan