Caja promises to import more doses of influenza vaccine this year

Health officials are trying to combat the idea that the country is in the midst of a flu epidemic.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social said Friday that it would purchase a million doses of flu vaccine for 2016 with delivery and use beginning in April. The Caja said it bought 750,000 vaccines last year.

Meanwhile the Pan American Health Organization, a U.N. agency, reported that the incidences of flu in Costa Rica peaked at the end of December.  The agency said that the influenza wave this year started late similar to the rest of Central America and the intensity is the same as previous years.

In the last weeks, the agency said, there was an increase in       AH3N2 and AH1N1, but cases began to decrease in the last week of December. AH3N2 is a variant of avian influenza, and AH1N1 is commonly called swine flu.

The Ministerio de Salud issued a report Friday that said just 21.7 percent of the nation’s flu cases were diagnosed as swine flu. In 2013 the percentage was as high as 68.7 percent. The ministry also distributed graphs showing that flu victims were a small percentage of those who died during the year. Public concern developed because a disproportionate number of deaths took place at the Hospital de San Carlos. The swine flu death toll since Dec.1 is 17, with nearly 50 percent in San Carlos. However, a study of patients showed they had little in common except that most had some other kind of medical problem.

By contrast an estimated 38,000 persons die each year in the United States because of flu.

A report over the weekend said that flu cases at the San Carlos hospital had diminished. Still the Caja was reported sending more staffers there.

The government has been saying for two weeks that a massive vaccination program is not needed, but that view seemed to run counter to public opinion. Health officials also said that the appropriate vaccines were not available, in part because the virus in the Southern Hemisphere always is different than those in the north and because the viruses mutate continually. So available vaccines would not be effective.

When a new vaccine comes to Costa Rica, the Caja said that the young, the old and health professionals will have priority.

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