Fighting the fluAs the weather gets colder, the influenza A (H1N1) virus is spreading like a wildfire all over the world. Nearly 10,000 confirmed cases occurred in Korea over the past week. In particular, the mass occurrence of the epidemic in elementary, middle or high schools amounted to as many as 346 cases. We are in a critical situation in which the epidemic, the risks of which have been managed and controlled so far, may see unbridled expansion.
We believe it is fortunate that vaccination will commence starting this week after the swift development of effective vaccines and clinical demonstrations in Korea. As recommended by the World Health Organization, the government plans to have a first line of defense with the vaccination of health care workers and epidemic control personnel, followed by improved coverage among students, infants, children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, the aged, patients with chronic diseases and soldiers. A regular vaccination sequence of target groups will effectively prevent the proliferation of the influenza virus with controlled risk of infection.
However, the health authority and people should make joint efforts to safely prevent any possible various side effects during the vaccination process. Taking into account the reasons behind the recent series of deaths of some elderly people who got vaccinated against the flu, there are some problems in the procedure: Some patients had to wait longer than others to be vaccinated despite cold weather. Therefore, it is of great importance to comply with health and safety standards by ensuring that the waiting time to get vaccinated for the flu be reduced as much as possible and a thorough investigation be conducted to detect any other unusual symptoms after immunization.
We desperately need to raise civil society’s awareness of following a vaccination schedule as determined by the government. If vaccines manufactured overseas are imported as scheduled, in addition to our domestic vaccines, there will be enough doses to inoculate all Koreans. Line jumping should not be allowed, as seen in unfair transactions of the antiviral drug Tamiflu. Some high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, should become the first priority under a shared social consensus. People must follow the government-provided guidelines strictly.
We should strive to comply with personal hygiene regulations. As the symptoms of the H1N1 virus are similar to those of general influenza in humans, we should pay more attention to minimizing the risk of infection to others by making sure to wear a mask when in doubt. Coping with this unprecedented epidemic requires the concerted effort of the entire community without a hitch.