The first batch of flu vaccines that were expected by the end of this month September in Cyprus will be delayed until early October, according to health authorities.
There is still no exact date in which the flu vaccines will be dispatched, a health ministry spokesperson told Cyprus Mail on Wednesday.
The first people who will have access to the flu jabs, which are vaccines that protect against infection by influenza viruses, will be those belonging to vulnerable groups.
“We will use the same categorisation in place for the Covid-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson said.
“That means that the first flu vaccines will be given to high-risk groups, including people over 65 years of age, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.”
The jabs will be available through Gesy, as each doctor in the national health service will have to notify the health ministry on how many patients eligible for the first batch are registered with their practice and they will receive the allocated jabs as soon as possible.
The flu shot will be free of charge for those who belong to the vulnerable groups as well as others such as health professionals, employees at care homes, vets, workers at abattoirs, people who care for vulnerable groups, and people living in ‘enclosed communities’ such as army camps.
Others wishing to be vaccinated must do so at their own expense.
Back in August, head of medical services, Elizabeth Constantinou said the first batch will consist of 20,000 flu jabs, adding that orders carry an option for the buyer to acquire 30 per cent more or less of the ordered quantity, should there be a need for more.
However, she also assured that there will be an ample supply of vaccines dispatched in the island.
The second batch of vaccines is expected to arrive by the end of October, while the third (and largest one) will be dispatched by mid-November.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities are anticipating a greater demand for the flu jab.
Some influenza and Covid-19 symptoms are similar, as confirmed by Petros Karayiannis, Professor of microbiology and molecular virology at the University of Nicosia Medical School.
“I suspect there will be a greater demand for flu jabs in Cyprus this year,” Karayiannis, who is also a member of the health ministry’s advisory committee, told Cyprus Mail.
“Of course, influenza and Covid-19 are two very different things, but the provision of the flu jabs will protect people from at least one of them.”
Karayiannis added that simultaneous flu and coronavirus infections could be lethal for certain patients and because both viruses are more aggressive in the winter, more lives could be lost in the next months.
“Right now no one can predict what will happen in the winter months but looking at what is happening around us, one understands how the situation can go off the tracks very quickly.
“Everything will depend on how many cases we will have in the community by then,” he said.
Karayiannis, however, once again stressed the importance of wearing face masks in close spaces.
“The mask acts as an effective shield for both the flu and coronavirus, making it the most effective tool we have for now against all infections of the lungs and respiratory tract.
“That is why it is very important for people to wear them as much as possible for the time being.