KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry only provides influenza vaccine at its health facilities as a preventive measure for treating patients in high-risk groups, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
Dr Noor Hisham said this was to prevent patients, especially young children and the elderly with weakened immune systems, from getting complications that can result in death due to the viral infection.
This is unlike healthy adults, who can easily recover from the flu.
"The vaccine is given (to the high-risk patients) based on their doctors' clinical assessment. The vaccine is also given to the Health Ministry's frontliners who are exposed to the infection when handling patients," he said in a statement late Tuesday (Jan 14).
The public who wish to get the flu vaccination can get it from private health facilities, he said.
Currently, there are six types of influenza vaccines registered with the Drug Control Authority and the total quantity which had been brought in for the Malaysian market for last year for all the six vaccines were 638,388 doses.
Of the amount, only 10% were supplies taken up by the Health Ministry's facilities, said Dr Noor Hisham.
Demand for the flu vaccine had seen a sudden increase from late last year to the early part of this year and the suppliers had allocated 40,000 doses of flu vaccines to private hospitals and clinics on Jan 7 and the stock had finished, he said.
The ministry had been informed that 99,470 doses will be brought in this month, he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said there are enough antivirals for treating influenza at the ministry's facilities.
The antiviral Oseltamivir is supplied by a concessionaire company, which the ministry had ordered to keep adequate stockpile, he said.
"There are no problems with supplies at our facilities despite demand increasing by four times for December," he said.
However, the shortage of the drugs in the private sector due to the failure of the country's five registered suppliers to meet demand, the ministry had given special approval to get more supplies from an alternative supplier and had approved 1.1 million capsules/tablets for December and January for private health facilities, he said.
The quantity is expected to treat 110,000 patients, he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said that antivirals can be used for treating patients infected by the flu virus to reduce symptoms or complications but they should be used rationally to prevent antimicrobial resistance.
Patients should get advice from their doctors before taking any medication, as the doctors would prescribe a suitable treatment after assessing patients, he said.
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