CAIRO: The H1N1 vaccination campaign kicked off on Sunday with units going around elementary schools in the governorates of Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Sixth of October, Helwan and Qaliubeya.
The campaign will continue until Jan. 13 during which time over 2 million elementary students, 6-12 years old, are expected to receive the vaccine.
Taking the vaccine at school is optional and free of charge.
Over the past week, the joint committee between the Health and Education Ministries has been informing the public through various media channels that the vaccine is safe and millions around the world, including the thousands of Egyptian pilgrims, have taken it and showed no side effects, adding that the vaccine is the only preventive measure against the H1N1 virus.
“Parents must sign the consent form not to take responsibility for possible side effects of the vaccine, but to ensure that the child has no medical history or a condition that might cause him to develop an allergy from the vaccine, explained Abdel-Rahman Shahin, Ministry of Health spokesman.
Twenty-five doctors from the Ministry of Health are supervising the medical teams working on the campaign.
State-owned news portal egynews.net, reported that there has been a low demand by students to take the vaccine on the first day of the campaign.
However, at Sheraton Heliopolis Language School, there was a relatively high demand for the vaccine with the majority of parents agreeing to have their children vaccinated.
“When the Ministry of Health informed us that there will be a campaign for school students, they gave us all the information needed in relation to the vaccine so we can properly inform the parents, explained Heba El Sayad, assistant deputy head at the school’s American section.
“Parents kept calling and coming in with many inquires and we had to thoroughly inform them, she explained. “For example, any child who is allergic to eggs cannot take the vaccine.
However, other parents are skeptical about the swine flu vaccine.
“First they say that the vaccine can cause paralysis and then they want us to give it to our kids, said Morsi Abdel Hamid, a porter in Heliopolis whose eight-year-old son goes to Gamal Abdel Nasser National Elementary School.
Merely hours before he was replaced, former Minister of Education Yousri El-Gamal took the vaccine himself at a school in Sixth of October City to ensure its safety.
Vaccination started in the most populated governorates as the majority of swine flu cases appeared in Cairo and Alexandria, since this is “an urban virus, Minister of Health Hatem El-Gabaly previously said.
In a related note, the Ministry of Health announced four more swine flu deaths Sunday, raising the death toll to 149 in Egypt.
The four cases include a 59-year-old man from Qaliubeya, a four-year-old girl from Cairo, a 32-year-old man from Minya and a 54-year-old man from Al Wadi Al Gadeed governorate.
According to the latest swine flu weekly report released by the Ministry of Health, the number of confirmed cases in Egypt reached 12,424. These include 4,676 cases among school students and 682 university students.
The number of patients who have been treated from the virus is 11,982.