The Balearic health ministry expects to vaccinate 111'350 people against flu between October 17 and November 29. They will be targetting people over the age of 64 and people considered at risk, to keep down the number of flu victims in the islands. Health minister Aina Salom presented the campaign for this year and next yesterday. She said that there would probably be a slight increase in the number of people who go down with flu between the end of December and April 2003 compared to last winter, when more than 19'900 Majorcans caught the flu. But, she stressed, it will not reach the levels of 1996/97 when the number of victims was more than 54'100. Salom said that this year's strain was not expected to be virulent and invited people to go to their health centres to be vaccinated, free of charge. She made a special appeal to the over 64s, those with chronic lung diseases, health workers, teachers and people with poor immunity systems. Salom said that the cost of the flu campaign is 447'600 euros and by the end of it 14.43 per cent of the population of Majorca, 10.30 per cent of Minorca and 8.54 per cent of Ibiza and Formentera should have received the jab. Converting the percentages to figures, she said that she hoped 94'635 Majorcans would be vaccinated and that the campaign would reach 67 per cent of the over-64s. In Minorca, the ministry expects to vaccinate 8'000 people and reach 55 per cent of the over 65s, while in Ibiza and Formentera, figures are 8'715 persons and 52 per cent of the over-65s. Salom was accompanied by the campaign director, Fernando Rigo, and the manager of the health department, Joan Pau. She stressed the importance of the flu jab, not only as protection against the flu but to prevent the collapse of the hospital network in the Balearics. The vaccination will be provided by the Aventis Pasteur laboratories, and the minister says it is effective from two weeks after the jab, and its effects are reduced after three to four months.

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