Marylin Azofeifa Marín, a 27 year old pregnant woman from Coronado, was the first to receive the AH1N1 vaccine that arrived in Costa Rica last week. Dr. María Luisa Ávila, the ministra de Salud (Health minister), personally administered the first of the 199.333 doses of the vaccine against the AH1N1 flu virus.
The vaccine is being purchased by the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and being administered to all Costa Ricans free of charge.
The shipment of almost 200.000 doses arrived last week is part of Costa Rica's order for 1.6 million doses, which are expected to arrive in the coming months.
Ministra Ávila said that the vaccine is mandatory.
Those identified in the high risk group - pregnant women, diabetics, patients with asthma, hyper tension, the obese and those working in the health care field - will be the first to be vaccinated.
To show faith in the vaccine, Dr. Ávila got her shot in front of the cameras, saying it is important to be protected as she visits local hospitals, clinics and patients on a regular basis.
Eduardo Doryan, president of the CCSS, said the focus of the vaccination will be in areas where there have been more cases of the AH1N1 and then will move to all other areas.
The vice-ministra de Salud, Ana Morice, explained that the CCSS will be compiling a list from medical records of persons that are required to be vaccinated, especially in the Metropolitan (San José) area.
Morice said those people will be notified by telephone, by the news media and by door-to-door visits by Salud officials where there is an address on file.
"The vaccination is mandatory. It is important that the population go to the clinics. We will first make call to those who are to be vaccinated, then we will go looking for them if they do not come in", said Morice.
The vice-ministra said that those people on the list who do not want to receive the vaccine, will be obligated to do so. "The idea is not use force, even though we have the right to go with the police to pull people from their homes and take them to a medical centre to be vaccinated", explained Morice.
The mandatory vaccination is based on government decree 35703-S of the Ley General de Salud published on January 21, 2010 in the official government publication, La Gaceta.
Morice explained that the only exceptions to the vaccination are those allergic to eggs and mercury, because the effects of the dose against AH1N1 may be worse. Also, those who have been infected will no be vaccinated as the possibility of re-infection is only 5%.
The vaccine is not being sold in pharmacies and is only available at CCSS hospitals and clinics known as Ebais and applied by Salud officials.
Dr. Ávila said that the vaccine may have some side effects like reddening and swelling of the area where the vaccine is applied, but will disappear within 24 hours.
Source: Inside Costa Rica