Dr Rai Ragbir, Member of Parliament for Cumuto/Manzanilla. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

The Member of Parliament for Cumuto/Manzanilla is sounding an alarm over the potential for an increase in COVID-19 cases, as citizens go to health facilities to get their flu shots, as another flu season begins.

The current influenza season will run from October 2020 to March 2021.

In an official statement on the matter, Dr Rai Ragbir says he is concerned that the Government’s system of administering the H1N1 vaccine to the general public can cause a serious increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“Without the Ministry of Health outlining a very clinical and systematic approach of accommodating so many persons at our various public health centres, this sets the stage for an intense explosion of COVID-19 cases,” the Cumuto/Manzanilla MP said.  “Further, the MOH has been short on providing critical information to the public, such as the number of influenza cases and deaths for the flu season in 2019/2020.”

As an experienced GP, he urged caution: “This situation, if not handled properly, can result in our health facilities becoming hotspots for possible exposure by citizens to coronavirus infections”.

He says that 20 percent of persons who test positive for coronavirus show no symptoms; also many with symptoms of coronavirus are also visiting the same health facilities for medical evaluation and testing. This, he insisted, provides the perfect platform for the spread of the virus. Dr Ragbir said we have been witnessing the daily spread, which, as of September 26th, totalled 4,312 cases with 70 deaths.

Dr Ragbir lamented: “This current situation cannot be left unchecked, as already the virus has had devastating, negative impacts on the country’s economy, including massive retrenchment.”

He said, “Health centres can be deemed a public space, and it is highly likely, given the categories of persons advised to get the vaccination that more than five persons will gather at any one time. This will be in direct contravention of the Public Health Act.”

Dr Ragbir insisted: “A great fear and concern will be that of mothers who will be petrified to take their six-month old infant to a health centre for the mandatory immunization, including the flu vaccine, resulting in exposing that child to the possibility of becoming infected.”

He said this situation highlights a real and reasonable concern by mothers and gives credence to the fact that the MOH must embark on a significant education campaign regarding its system of administering this vaccine to the various categories of at risk persons.

The Cumuto/Manzanilla MP said it is important to empower persons, to allay their fears through education and information, so that they can get their yearly and much needed flu vaccine in a safe environment, which will make it much easier for health care workers.

Dr Ragbir said is it important to note that the flu shot does not give one the flu, and that getting the vaccine serves as no protection against COVID-19.

“However, it is possible to have a co-infection of both viruses at the same time,” he said, “and therefore, these are factors which must be taken into consideration when embarking on vaccination of the wider population.”

The Cumuto Manzanilla MP said, the measure outlined above can be seen as a temporary off-site set up, so that all workers and recipients will know that all is being done to ensure their total protection, thereby encouraging persons to get their flu vaccine, in a controlled setting, while at the same time, observing all health protocols.