The Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization launched today the seasonal Influenza(flu) vaccination campaign at the Ministry’s premises following the recent arrival of 10,000 doses of seasonal flu vaccine to Lebanon. Ahead of the 2023/24 influenza season, the Ministry of Public Health received 10,000 doses of influenza vaccine last week from the Partnership for International Vaccine Initiatives (PIVI). At the national level, additional doses may be available through the private sector for individual purchase in pharmacies or bulk purchasing for private hospitals. In order to maximize the impact of seasonal influenza vaccine, the Ministry of Public Health has prioritized three high-risk populationsbased on WHO recommendations: Frontline healthcare workers working in the public hospitals, PHCs, elderly homes, and cancer/dialysis public centers. Elderly individuals residing in the elderly homes contracted with MoPH. Individuals with underlying health conditions particularly dialysis patients covered by the MoPH. Seasonal influenza causes considerable morbidity and mortality around the world annually. Worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, seasonal influenza causes about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness annually and about 290,000 to 650,000 respiratory deaths,mainly among high-risk groups. Although disease burden estimation for the countries is critical to strengthen national and global influenza preparedness, there is a lack of high-quality and up-to-date estimates of severe influenza burden at global, regional and national levels, specifically in low and middle-income countries. Similarly, estimates of the burden of influenza in Lebanon are scarce. However, the MoPH together with WHO are taking steps to enhance the surveillance of influenza and generate more accurate data to estimate the burden of influenza in the country. Available data estimates that the burden of influenza in Lebanon wasestimated to be 48.1 per 100,000 seasonal influenza-associated respiratory hospitalization. The estimated rate for critically ill cases due to seasonal influenza was 12.9 per 100,000 with the highest rates among adults =65?years old (49.7 per 100,000). For mortality, it was estimated that seasonal influenza causes 347 deaths each season in Lebanon, mainly among adults =65?years old and those with co-morbidities. Health Minister Dr Firass Abiad stressed on two important points: The first is that ‘the launch of the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign today and the launch of the breast cancer awareness campaign yesterday reflect that, despite all the difficulties, the Ministry of Public Health is still determined to carry out all its duties towards protecting society and its health’. He then went on to praised the efforts made by workers in the Ministry of Public Health, the Primary Health Care Program, and workers in other programs, who, when new responsibilities are assigned to them, take the initiative to assume them in order to protect their community. He added: “This is not strange, as we have all seen, especially during the COVID-19 crisis and many situations, that they were providing community service 24/7.” ‘It is important to vaccinate health professionals, the elderly, and people with comorbidities as primary target groups followed by children and pregnant women in order to protect the high-risk groups,’ explained Dr. Abdinasir Abubakar, WHO representative in Lebanon. ‘The only way to lessen the impact of a seasonal influenza is to vaccinate the most vulnerable and frontline health workers. The flu vaccine is very effective to protect individuals and the whole communities’. Working hand in hand with the Ministry of Public Health, WHO always strives to ensure that every individual has access to health care and that no one is left behind, not only during seasonal outbreaks but also for regular healthcare. — WHO Lebanon

Source: National News Agency – Lebanon