There is a crowd outside the small Public Healthcare Center in Kumanovo. Many adult patients, most of them older than 60 years, are waiting in line to receive a flu shot. The seasonal flu vaccination has started. This year, 1,800 vaccines have been procured from a Dutch manufacturer, officials of the Public Healthcare Center inform.
“We would like to call on the vulnerable groups of people, such as the chronically ill, people suffering from pulmonary or cardiovascular diseases, diabetics and immunocompromised patients to be vaccinated on time,” epidemiologist Edita Ramizi says.
Before opening the doors to the public, the healthcare workers that will administer the vaccinations will be vaccinated first. They have recommended their other colleagues to do the same. Before taking the shot, the patients undergo a general medical examination, that is, their blood pressure is taken and their pulse is felt.
The vaccine costs 400 denars and is primarily intended for the chronically ill, immunocompromised patients, healthcare workers, geriatric patients and public servants.
“The price is too high for our standards. However, I regularly get a vaccination every year because it is really effective. I got a flu shot last year and I had only a mild cold. I had no major problems, which is good, given the fact that last year I had blood pressure problems and I received a medical treatment, so now I will avoid paying for flu medications,” a senior Kumanovo resident who waits in line with his wife says. He asks the authorities to consider reducing the vaccine price to 200 denars. Another patient, also a retiree, asks that the vaccine should be free of charge for certain categories of people, such as those suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
“Everything is expensive, while allegedly everything is free of charge. The Health Insurance Fund should also cover the costs of vaccinations or they should cost up to 100 denars,” this Kumanovo residents says.
Two civil servants who work at the counter of a state institution have also received a vaccine. They have decided to make this move because they are in constant touch with other people.
“I serve about 50 people every day. I got sick twice last year and once it was quite serious. I do not know what happened. Perhaps my immunity had weakened, but this time I refuse to take that risk, so I have decided to be vaccinated. It is not expensive at all,” 35-year-old Andrijana Z. says.
According to the Healthcare Center authorities, last year a total of 1,400 people, most of whom senior citizens, received a flu shot.
This year 100 more vaccinations have been provided compared to last year. The doctors hope that they will have enough vaccinations for all the interested.
As for the rest of the region, the regional departments in Kriva Palanka and Kratovo have received 200 and 100 vaccines, respectively, but they have been used up in only two days.
The vaccine covers the strands of influenza viruses that circulate on the northern hemisphere, including the European region and Macedonia, and it has been prepared in compliance with the World Health Organization recommendations. It protects from two strands of viruses from the A group and a strand of virus from the B group. The vaccine is produced by the Dutch Abbott company.
The Healthcare Ministry has informed that the vaccination is the only preventive measure against flu and is recommended for persons older than 65, primarily the chronically ill, toddlers under the age of three, healthcare workers, person with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and people with immunodeficiency disorders. The flu vaccination is not obligatory, but voluntarily. It is administered in October and November to have enough time to acquire immunity before the flu season, which starts in December and often lasts as long as until March.
Apart from a stuffy or a running nose, other flu symptoms include: muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, cough and high body temperature, above 38.5 degrees. The patients usually recover within a week, but those suffering from immunodeficiency disorders take up to two weeks to recuperate fully. Doctors say that the vaccination does provide protection, but people still need to take care of their heath primarily through their diet, that is, take food rich in vitamins, fresh fruits and vegetables, eat stews and soups, drink tea and freshly squeezed juice and have light physical activities both in autumn and in winter.
A total of 28,000 vaccines have been procured at a national level.