While France is affected by the second wave of the Covid, the annual vaccination campaign against the seasonal flu begins this Tuesday and should extend until the end of January 2021.
This year, the health authorities are posting an ambitious goal: to approach 75% of influenza vaccination coverage for the most vulnerable groups in France. If the epidemic affects between 2 and 6 million people across France every year, recent figures show that the vaccination rate for the most vulnerable people is struggling to take off. The level reached last year “Was only 47.8%”, recently recalled the Ministry of Health and Health Insurance in a statement. Against the backdrop of the health crisis, the health authorities have decided to pull out all the stops.
Who should be vaccinated and where?
According to Public Health France, the seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for those over 65, for people suffering from chronic pathologies (respiratory failure, heart failure, diabetes, renal failure, asthma, obstructive pulmonary disease, etc.), and those with morbid obesity (body mass index greater than 40). Pregnant women and those close to infants under 6 months at risk of severe influenza and immunocompromised people are also concerned.
The health authorities also encourage healthcare workers to be vaccinated for “Continue to ensure their activity” and for “Protect their patients”. Again, figures from past years show relatively low vaccination rates. In health establishments, the coverage rate for the year 2018-2019 was estimated at 35%, all medical personnel combined. Same observation in nursing homes.
Most of the people targeted receive a voucher for the vaccine from the Health Insurance. Others can get it delivered “By their doctor, midwife and, for adults, by their nurse or pharmacist”. It is then possible to be vaccinated free of charge at the pharmacy upon presentation of the receipt or by a health professional (doctor or midwife, nurse). Remember that a period of fifteen days is necessary after vaccination to be protected from the virus.
Why is the campaign a major issue this year?
Faced with the risk of co-circulation of the influenza virus and that of Covid-19, the health authorities wish to avoid an influx of patients suffering from a severe form of influenza. In 2017-2018, the epidemic caused nearly 45,000 hospital stays. A figure that has cause for concern for nursing staff, while the resuscitation services are already close to saturation and the number of Covid-19 patients continues to climb.
For Rémi Salomon, president of the Commission for the Establishment of Public Assistance in Paris Hospitals (AP-HP), it is important to be vaccinated to significantly reduce the number of people with the flu: “If we have fewer people in our intensive care units, that’s a very good thing, because our services are very crowded, says the practitioner who also hopes to unclog the Covid-19 diagnostic network. We avoid ending up with people who go to the doctor and ask for a Covid test because they have symptoms that resemble those of the flu. ” On the caregiver side, the practitioner remains firm: “Vaccination could prevent the absenteeism of doctors who are already not numerous enough. And if they can avoid infecting patients, that’s even better. ”
Can we fear a shortage of vaccines?
Anticipating a sharp increase in requests due to a “Covid effect”, the ministry decided to increase its orders by 30%. He plans to increase doses of vaccine consumed by 12 million compared to last year. “A continuous supply from pharmaceutical laboratories is planned”, he recalls in the press release.
The Sanofi laboratory has also pledged to increase vaccine production by 20%. “The flu vaccine factories are working seven days a week right now. The window of opportunity to produce a vaccine is a chase. All our factories are running at full speed ”, said its president Olivier Bogillot, in an interview with AFP. In addition, the department encourages people who are not at particular risk and who would like to be vaccinated “Postpone their vaccination until the beginning of December”. For Rémi Salomon on the other hand, the current context of mistrust could limit the number of vaccinations.