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WHO sees local shots for A(H1N1) by year-end

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) will give Cambodia stocks of the A(H1N1) influenza vaccine sometime late this year, though with supply levels still uncertain, the organisation plans on prioritising access to the vaccine for high-risk groups.

Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, announced the WHO commitment on Friday. He said that while Cambodia waits for the WHO delivery, much can still be done in the way of prevention.

“Even with the vaccine [available], hygienic practices are still the most important defence,” he said. “We continue to advise people about sanitation and how to avoid exposure to the virus.”

Nima Asgari, a WHO public health specialist, said the exact sources of the vaccines, which will be donated to Cambodia by manufacturers and foreign governments, remained uncertain.

“We know it will be difficult to cover everyone, so at the moment, we recommend that the vaccine be first [given] to special groups,” he said.

Chief among these, he said, were healthcare workers, who are not only constantly exposed to the virus, but are also “the front line” of the fight against the disease. Other groups at risk of developing severe cases of swine flu include pregnant women, young children and people with chronic respiratory illnesses, he added.

Ly Sovann said that as of Wednesday, in-country infections of the A(H1N1) virus, commonly known as swine flu, had risen to 313.

Four people have died from swine flu since it was detected in Cambodia in June.

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