KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — Supply of flu vaccines and antiviral drugs in private facilities is insufficient, the Ministry of Health (MOH) acknowledged today amid an Influenza A (H1N1) outbreak.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said suppliers do not have any more stock of influenza vaccines after distributing 40,000 doses to private clinics and hospitals last January 7, amid a spike in demand since the end of last year. Another 99,470 doses will be brought in this month.
Flu vaccines at government health facilities are only available to high-risk patients and frontline MOH staff who are exposed to infections when managing patients.
“Members of the public who want to get influenza vaccine jabs can get those jabs at private health facilities,” said Dr Noor Hisham in a statement.
A total of 638,388 doses of six registered influenza vaccines were brought into the Malaysian market for the whole of last year, out of which 10 per cent went to MOH health facilities.
As for the Oseltamivir antiviral medicine to treat flu patients, which goes by brand names like Tamiflu, Fluhalt, Osmivir and Starflu, the five registered suppliers are unable to accommodate sharply rising demand in private health facilities.
Therefore, MOH has given special approval from the Health DG to get supplies from alternative suppliers.
“So far, MOH has approved almost 1.1 million capsules or tablets for December 2019 until January 2020 to fulfill demand in private health facilities. This is estimated to treat 110,000 patients,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
MOH facilities, however, are not facing problems with supply of the Oseltamivir antiviral drug, despite demand rising four times last month.
“Antiviral drugs can reduce symptoms and complications of illness. However, antivirals must be used rationally to avoid antimicrobial resistance that can lead to ineffective treatments,” Dr Noor Hisham warned the public, as he advised getting physicians’ advice before taking any medicines.
A secondary school in Perak shuttered last weekend due to the flu outbreak, while a 12-year-old boy, who was suspected of having Influenza A, reportedly died.
The H1N1 outbreak has infected hundreds of students nationwide, including in Selangor and Penang.