The autonomous communities finalize the influenza vaccine campaigns that will begin at the end of October, this year for the first time with the added difficulty of advancing in parallel with the third puncture against the coronavirus. Experts call for willingness to be vaccinated in a year that is not expected to be the worst, but in which it is taken for granted that there will be more cases and deaths than in the past .
Which on the other hand is not difficult, since the virus remained at unusually low levels in 2020-2021: by mid-January, six cases of the common flu had been detected throughout the country . So this year, in line with what has happened in the southern hemisphere, a peak of incidence is expected, always without reaching the data prior to the pandemic.
The National Epidemiology Center shows that in the 2019-20 season, the common flu affected a total of 652,400 people in Spain, of which 1,800 went through the ICU and 3,900 died from the disease. The previous year (2018-2019) this disease had caused about 6,300 deaths.
Mask against contagions
Juan Antonio Sanz , from the Spanish Association of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Sanitary Management, does not expect in any case that the flu will reach the levels of previous seasons.
Although the use of the mask has declined outdoors, it is still mandatory in stores, schools, and other indoor spaces. And its great effectiveness has been proven.
However, as José María Molero , member of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine, points out, this winter there will be practically normal social mobility and fewer people protected naturally because the flu did not circulate last year. “That is going to mean that there is more likely to be a higher virus transmissibility,” he says.
The body remembers the infection, and that is what explains why the population most prone to infection are children and adolescents rather than adults, who have already had the flu more times throughout their lives.
An opinion that Jorge Carrillo , member of the Spanish Immunology Society (SEI), does not share, however , who does not believe that the fall in infections during one year will greatly affect the next. For him, what will make the difference will be the strain of virus that circulates (A or B).
“I do not think that we are going to have a more severe campaign due to the fact that last year it was not,” says Carrillo.
Juan Antonio Sanz points out that the forecasts of the United States are that there will be a great transmission. “I have my doubts, but the flu can always surprise us,” he says.
Together two campaigns
The Public Health Commission this week approved an additional injection of the vaccine against covid-19 in people over 70 years of age to start injecting it at the end of October. The flu campaign begins at the end of October or beginning of November, a simultaneity that will put a strain on the health services.
“Perhaps there will be difficulties to cope … It would be necessary to continue using the vaccine fields,” says José María Molero, who regrets that there is again a lot of work in primary care because respiratory infections are growing and it must be ruled out that it is covid-19.
Some autonomies have already announced that they will puncture the two vaccines at the same time to those over 69 years of age. The Balearic Islands, for example, plan to play 119,000 people on the same day between November 4 and 21; Catalonia will start on October 25 and foresees that they may coincide, although not in all cases; Castilla y León at the end of the month …
Although experts normally recommend leaving a week off between puncture and puncture, they believe that this time putting them together is “from a strategic point of view a good opportunity to gain vaccinated personnel”, explains Juan Antonio Sanz.
Before an anticipation
Flu transmission usually emboldens in late December or early January. However, this year it seems that the virus could circulate sooner. And if that happens and the peaks are brought forward to the month of November, perhaps the vaccines that will begin to be administered at the end of October will arrive a little late.
“Between the second and fourth week the objective is achieved … Perhaps we should have advanced the vaccination a little, it would be better”, says this expert in community medicine.
Among all the messages, the experts focus on one: last year there was a good acceptance of the vaccine that they hope will be repeated this time in risk groups: the elderly, health personnel, or immunosuppressed people, among others.
“I hope that this year people are vaccinated in a generalized way … Vaccination against influenza is effective, it prevents serious diseases,” Jorge Carrillo ditches.