Costa Rica’s Social Security System, or Caja, launched a vaccination campaign this week to inoculate 1.3 million people against seasonal influenza.
The campaign will run until July 14 and aims primarily at vaccinating people from high-risk groups against the virus. That includes pregnant women, children between six months and five years, and people over 60.
Caja officials also recommend applying the vaccine to people ages 5-70 with chronic health conditions, including chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, morbid obesity, heart disease, congenital or acquired immunosuppression, hemoglobinopathies, cirrhosis, malnutrition, Down syndrome, neurological problems or infantile cerebral palsy.
Leandra Abarca, coordinator of the Caja’s Immunization Program, said in a news release that this year the institution expanded the segment of the population to be vaccinated, raising the upper limit on children from three to five years of age.
“This campaign required the acquisition of 100,000 doses more than last year, representing a total investment of $5 million for the Caja,” Abarca said.
Side effects of the vaccine are minimal and occur in under one percent of those immunized. The vaccine can be applied together with other medical treatments and is free at Caja’s medical centers, the agency noted.
Seasonal influenza is a contagious acute respiratory disease caused by a virus. It can occur in mild or severe forms, and can even cause death.
Abarca said 93 percent of the 130 people who died from influenza last year in Costa Rica were not vaccinated, despite the possibility of receiving the vaccine for free at a Caja hospital because they all belonged to at-risk groups.
Because of the seasonal pattern of the influenza virus, Caja officials expect cases to peak at different times within a year.
“We usually have a peak in May and another between July-August, and in the past three years we saw another peak in the last months of each year,” Abarca said.