November 11, 2009
Serbian Health Minister Tomica Milosavljevic has announced a swine flu epidemic in the country, meaning that nation-wide emergency vaccination can be carried out.
“This act.. is primarily aimed to establish legal requirements for emergency immunisations. Nothing spectacular that hasn’t been happening these days will occur now that an epidemic has been declared,” the minister said at a press conference Wednesday.
By declaring an epidemic, the government will also be able to prohibit public gatherings if deemed necessary, as well as give the power to authorities to carry out special epidemiological surveillance.
[efoods]The minister said he took his decision upon the recommendations of the working group set up to monitor the A/H1N1 virus in the country.
The country has registered 258 swine flu cases so far and eight fatalities. The Serbian government has provided additional funds to purchase three million doses of vaccines against the infection.
The Institute for Health Insurance has announced that a contract with Swiss company Novartis for the procurement of vaccines is supposed to be signed on Thursday. The chairman of the Commission for Procurement of Vaccines, Branislav Tiodorovic, expressed his hope that most of the vaccine doses will be delivered to Serbia by the end of January, broadcaster Mtsmondo reports.
Vaccination will initially target priority groups including children, people with chronic conditions, pregnant women and health and public employees.
Serbia will be one of the first countries in Europe outside the EU to start a new vaccination against influenza, which is supposed to begin in the first half of December, the minister said. About 17 European countries have already started vaccination while another eight have announced they will do it from November, said Milosavljevic.
Regarding speculations about possible side effects of the vaccine against swine flu, Assistant Minister of Health Ruzica Nikolic said that some 40 million people worldwide have been vaccinated so far without side effects.
In the meantime, the government has already extended the school autumn break until Monday.