Why a flu vaccination is essential – Health

Why a flu vaccination is essential – Health
Why a flu vaccination is essential – Health

While the booster campaign against covid-19 is in full swing, experts warn of the spread of the flu. After two relatively quiet flu seasons, a twentieth epidemic may be looming this winter, of Covid and seasonal flu together. To prevent this, a flu vaccine is strongly recommended for people over 65 and at risk groups.

In recent years, flu has been somewhat snowed in because the corona crisis has attracted all the attention, but that does not mean that this recurring virus would have been wiped off the map. On the contrary. Australia in the southern hemisphere, where they have just finished a winter, experienced an alarmingly high flu peak, coupled with an increase in the number of Covid infections. In addition, the flu season in Australia started relatively early compared to other years. “If both the covid infections and the flu virus start circulating together in our country, it can create a perfect storm. Whether the two will effectively coincide or partly overlap, remains very difficult to predict. clockwise, while coronaviruses come in waves. The consequences such a twentiethemia can have, including for hospitals, depends to a large extent on our behaviour,” says virologist Prof. Marc Van Ranst (KULeuven).

Southern hemisphere

The best way to protect yourself is still getting vaccinated against seasonal flu. In our country, the vaccination coverage has declined somewhat in recent years, to about 59% of the over-65s in 2018, while the WHO recommends that a vaccination coverage of 75% is necessary for optimal protection. In 2020, in the full corona pandemic, the enthusiasm to get a flu shot was particularly high, after which there was hardly a flu season thanks to the strict measures against Covid. “The following year, in the winter of 21-22, we saw that motivation to get vaccinated against the flu dropped, which was somewhat understandable. However, we still had a late flu peak afterwards.

The data we are currently getting from the Southern Hemisphere is not very reassuring for the coming winter because there has been a truly virulent flu season there for the first time since the pandemic. The number of infections was high, but fortunately the number of hospitalizations was not too bad. What happened there can give a good indication of what to expect,” continues Marc Van Ranst.

Double Infections

In addition, the immunity of many at-risk groups and the over-65s has weakened after a two-year health crisis with low flu circulation. “That makes the risk of a double infection against covid and flu real. When someone becomes infected with one virus and becomes ill, the chance of a second infection is in any case greater because the immunity is impaired. We urgently need to get rid of the misconception that flu is a serious cold. In many vulnerable groups, the elderly, but sometimes also in healthy people, flu can lead to serious complications such as heart and lung diseases with associated hospitalizations,” assures general practitioner Dr. Aurore Girard.

New composition

The influenza virus that causes the flu changes shape every year. That is why the WHO continuously adjusts the composition of the vaccine on the basis of monitoring the circulating virus strains. A so-called quadrivalent flu vaccine containing antigens against the two most common A and B strains is planned for next winter. Vaccination is highly recommended for all people over 65, for anyone with some kind of chronic condition (diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease…), for healthcare workers, pregnant women, for those who live with a person at risk and for those in a institution resides. For them, the vaccination is largely reimbursed. Those who do not belong to these groups pay around 11 euros for a vaccine.

Timing counts

Timing also counts with a flu vaccination. After the vaccination, the body starts making antibodies against the viral proteins from the vaccine. But because the effectiveness of the vaccines declines quite quickly, it is important to be armed at the right time. That is, before the expected peak of the flu season. To be optimally protected, it is therefore best to have your jab only taken from late October or early November. That way you are certainly still safe if the flu would strike late – from February. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can have both a covid booster and a flu vaccine put in at the same time without any problems.

In recent years, flu has been somewhat snowed in because the corona crisis has attracted all the attention, but that does not mean that this recurring virus would have been wiped off the map. On the contrary. Australia in the southern hemisphere, where they have just finished a winter, experienced an alarmingly high flu peak, coupled with an increase in the number of Covid infections. In addition, the flu season in Australia started relatively early compared to other years. “If both the covid infections and the flu virus start circulating together in our country, it can create a perfect storm. Whether the two will effectively coincide or partly overlap, remains very difficult to predict. clockwise, while coronaviruses come in waves. The consequences such a twentiethemia can have, including for hospitals, depends to a large extent on our behaviour,” says virologist Prof. Marc Van Ranst (KULeuven). protecting is still getting vaccinated against seasonal flu. In our country, the vaccination coverage has declined somewhat in recent years, to about 59% of the over-65s in 2018, while the WHO recommends that a vaccination coverage of 75% is necessary for optimal protection. In 2020, in the full corona pandemic, the enthusiasm to get a flu shot was particularly high, after which there was hardly a flu season thanks to the strict measures against Covid. “The following year, in the winter of 21-22, we saw a drop in motivation to get vaccinated against flu, which was somewhat understandable. However, we still had a late flu peak afterwards. The data we are currently receiving from the southern hemisphere are not very reassuring about coming winter because a really virulent flu season has occurred there for the first time since the pandemic. The number of infections was high, but fortunately the number of hospitalizations was still relatively small. What happened there can give a good indication of what awaits us,” continues Marc Van Ranst. In addition, the immunity of many risk groups and people over 65 has weakened after two years of health crisis with a low circulation of flu. “That makes the risk of a double infection against covid and flu real. When someone becomes infected with one virus and becomes ill, the chance of a second infection is in any case greater because the immunity is impaired. We urgently need to get rid of the misconception that flu is a serious cold. In many vulnerable groups, the elderly, but sometimes also in healthy people, flu can lead to serious complications such as heart and lung diseases with associated hospitalizations,” assures general practitioner Dr. Aurore Girard. The influenza virus that causes flu varies shape every year. That is why the WHO continuously adjusts the composition of the vaccine on the basis of monitoring the circulating virus strains. A so-called quadrivalent flu vaccine containing antigens against the two most common A and B strains is planned for next winter. Vaccination is highly recommended for all people over 65, for anyone with some kind of chronic condition (diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease…), for healthcare workers, pregnant women, for those who live with a person at risk and for those in a institution resides. For them, the vaccination is largely reimbursed. Those who do not belong to these groups pay around 11 euros for a vaccine. Timing also counts with a flu vaccination. After the vaccination, the body starts making antibodies against the viral proteins from the vaccine. But because the effectiveness of the vaccines declines quite quickly, it is important to be armed at the right time. That is, before the expected peak of the flu season. In order to be optimally protected, it is therefore best to have your injection only from the end of October or the beginning of November. That way you are certainly still safe if the flu would strike late – from February. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, you can have both a covid booster and a flu vaccine put in at the same time without any problems.


The article is in Dutch

Tags: flu vaccination essential Health

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