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The government has constituted a committee to identify areas most-hit by swine flu as it seeks to review its guidelines on seasonal influenza vaccination (H1N1) and redefine categories to be vaccinated on a priority basis, a health ministry official said.
The move comes in the wake of spurt in cases of swine flu in the country and the subsequent rise in demand for vaccines for prevention from the infection.
"The idea is to identify high-risk zones in order to prioritise vaccination," said the senior health ministry official.
This five-member panel has been constituted by the joint-monitoring committee headed by Director General of Health Services, Jagdish Prasad, which monitors the status of swine-flu in the country.
As per the existing guidelines, vaccination is recommended for pregnant women, persons with chronic illnesses and co-morbid conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, those who are immunocompromised.
It also recommends vaccination for health care workers in hospitals and institutional settings with a likelihood of exposure to influenza virus.
The guidelines say that the vaccine is also desirable for elderly individuals above the age of 65 and children six months to eight years.
"Some states are saying that if we consider all these age-groups and conditions then the demand that comes out to exceed the availability of vaccine in the market.
"To meet this challenge, the committee has been constituted to determine who all in the community should be vaccinated on the basis of the high-risk zones," said the official, who did not wish to be named.
According to Health ministry data, swine flu has claimed over 1,586 lives so far this year, which is almost six times more than deaths recorded last year, with a total of 31,787 cases reported across the country till September 10.
Maharashtra has the highest death toll with 532 people succumbing to H1N1 infections, followed by Gujarat at 396, Rajasthan at 141 and Uttar Pradesh at 80.