(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Five new cases of H1N1 (swine) flu were confirmed on Saturday, including two domestic transmissions, as a ministry official cast doubt over the availability of the swine flu vaccine in the Kingdom before early next year.
According to Health Minister Nayef Fayez, three of the new cases are a 23-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman arriving from Britain, as well as a 20-year-old man who recently came from the US.
The fourth and fifth cases are 17-year-old boys who had not recently left the country, leading officials to believe their infection was the result of domestic transmissions of the virus, Fayez said yesterday.
On Friday, two cases were registered among Jordanians who arrived from Thailand and Sweden, while two others were teenagers who have not left the country recently.
This brings to 53 the total number of persons in Jordan who have been diagnosed with the disease since June, 11 of whom are receiving treatment at Prince Hamzah Hospital in Amman, Fayez noted.
All other cases have been released after fully recovering from the virus.
Meanwhile, a ministry official said yesterday that the Kingdom is not likely to receive the swine flu vaccine by fall as previously hoped.
According to the source, due to a lengthy order list and intense demand for the vaccine, the Kingdom may not receive the first batch until January of next year, not September as previously announced.
A January shipment would mean that the vaccine would not be available ahead of Hajj season, during which officials had previously expressed hope to vaccinate 15 per cent of the population, particularly pilgrims.
Officials at the ministries of health and awqaf and Islamic affairs are slated to meet next week to decide on procedures regarding a decision by Arab health ministers to curb the spread of the H1N1 virus among pilgrims.
The Health Ministry said on Saturday it aims to form a committee to administer health checkups for Jordanians planning to perform Hajj to determine whether they are at risk for the virus.
Over 27,000 citizens registered for Hajj this year as a total of 6,500 Jordanians will be chosen to perform the pilgrimage, according to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.
Last Wednesday, Arab health ministers decided to ban children, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions from performing the Hajj this year, when selecting those eligible for the pilgrimage.
In the absence of the swine flu vaccine, Health Ministry officials are considering providing citizens with the seasonal flu vaccine, which according to Bassam Hijjawi, director of the ministry's disease control department, can reduce the chances of contracting the H1N1 virus by 50 to 60 per cent
Hijjawi said the ministry will purchase 40,000 doses of the seasonal influenza vaccine to vaccinate pilgrims as a precautionary procedure, as both diseases stem from the same "A" virus strain.
"This vaccine does not provide complete protection, but it helps decrease infection rates," Hijjawi said.
Despite the quick spread of the disease in world countries, the global swine flu epidemic is still in its early stages, the World Health Organisation's flu chief, Keiji Fukuda, told the Associated Press on Friday.
By Khetam Malkawi