The Maharashtra health department has decided to vaccinate ‘vulnerable groups’ against swine flu, or H1N1 infection, this year. Concerned about the likely resurgence of the H1N1 virus in the community once the monsoon sets in, a high-level committee has recommended that diabetics, people with hypertension, children, pregnant women, and people with low immunity and respiratory ailments should be vaccinated.
Following the swine flu outbreak this year, the state health department had instituted a committee, which included experts from private and public hospitals, to review levels of preparedness. Between January and May this year, the state recorded 515 swine flu deaths. This year, more than 5,000 people have contracted the H1N1 infection.
The health department is yet to decide whether they can provide vaccination free of cost. “The union ministry has agreed to fund the vaccination of doctors and other healthcare providers who are likely to contract the infection from patients. Now we have asked the state health ministry for funding the vaccination for the vulnerable population that the expert team has identified,” said Dr Satish Pawar, director of health services, Maharashtra.
State health officials have pegged the cost of vaccination at Rs 460 crore for the entire state. However, if the vaccines are provided only to people living in cities, which have been witnessing periodic outbreaks of swine flu, it could cost the state Rs 90 crore.