Flu vaccinations will begin October 1 for the general public, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell announced Monday, whereas the campaign to vaccinate medical personnel is already underway.
He said the Ministry of Health has purchased 35 million doses of this year’s vaccine and distribution to the states has begun.
The flu shot campaign will kick off with a vaccination station and ceremony at the National Palace in October. The Health Ministry’s goal is to administer all doses of the vaccine by December 31 in order to help the population build up immunity to the flu by the peak months of January and February.
Health officials are wary of the dangers of battling a flu epidemic at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic. Flu symptoms are often similar to that of the coronavirus — fever, cough, body aches and fatigue — and distinguishing between the two will likely be a challenge for medical personnel. In addition, people with flu-like symptoms might not seek medical help, and the possibility that a patient could be infected with the flu and the coronavirus at the same time could severely tax healthcare providers.
“When influenza comes, which is undoubtedly going to happen, we could have an exacerbation and it could be that we need new restrictive measures. That is why we must manage the risk, reducing as much as possible the contagions,” Hugo López-Gatell said on Saturday.
The vaccine is obtained after the World Health Organization conducts technical consultations with specialized centers around the world to predict which are the new strains most likely to spread during the next influenza season. Approximately 40% of those vaccinated will become immune to the flu virus.
López-Gatell specified that all states will receive the necessary doses and if they do not have them already it is because distribution has been based on the states’ cold storage capacities.
Priority will be given to pregnant women, children, people over the age of 60 and those who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, respiratory illness, heart disease, immunosuppression disorders, cancer, or HIV, López-Gatell said.
In the past, vaccinations began at the end of October. Last year they were moved to the middle of the month but this year the campaign will get an even earlier start.
The number of vaccine doses available this year is also much higher than in previous years. Last year 31.2 million doses were applied for the H1N1 “swine” flu. This year a total of 35.3 million will be applied.
Flu vaccines have been available free of charge in Mexico since 2017.