Already in a Covid wave, France begins to vaccinate against the flu

published on Monday, October 17, 2022 at 05:10

France launches its flu vaccination campaign on Tuesday, the authorities hoping to avoid a heavy epidemic in a health context already marked by a wave of Covid-19.

“There is every interest in getting vaccinated quickly for people at risk,” warned immunologist Jean-Daniel Lelièvre in early October, during a press briefing from the ANRS, the public agency for the fight against infectious diseases.

This will be possible from Tuesday. The people targeted will be able to get vaccinated against the flu free of charge, from a doctor, a pharmacy, a nurse or a midwife.

These people mainly include people over 65, pregnant women, severely obese (BMI over 40) and patients with certain chronic diseases such as diabetes.

The flu vaccine will be reserved for them until November 15. Subsequently, all French people will be able to benefit from it but at their own expense if they are not part of the target.

Currently, the flu is limited to a few sporadic cases in France, and it is impossible to know what scale the epidemic will take. But several experts are already worried about a difficult year.

“There are several reasons”, detailed Jean-Daniel Lelièvre, referring in particular to the data from the countries of the southern hemisphere, including Australia: the influenza epidemic, which takes place there before the countries of the North, resulted in fairly severe symptoms.

– “We pay less attention” –

But the concerns also come, in several respects, from the context linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

After almost three years, “we use the mask much less, we pay less attention”, underlines the immunologist.

Another negative element, last year, in a blurred context by the launch of a booster vaccination campaign against Covid, the French received little vaccination against the flu: barely more than half of those eligible did.

“So immunity tends to drop in the general population,” concluded Mr. Lelièvre.

This year, again, the authorities are challenged with double vaccination against influenza and Covid.

A new recall campaign is at work against the latter and, with the flu, the targets largely overlap. Among the few discrepancies, people between the ages of 60 and 65 are concerned by anti-Covid and not anti-flu vaccination.

No worries, a priori, in terms of supply. French giant Sanofi, which supplies around half of the vaccines in the country, reported production “far above demand”.

– Two birds with one stone –

The risk rather concerns a lack of clarity at the level of the articulation between the two vaccinations: instead of a joint launch, the anti-Covid campaign began at the beginning of October.

In question, the emergence at the start of the school year of a new wave of Covid, which prompted the health authorities to hurry.

Why, then, not advance the campaign against the flu? “If we start too early, (…) we take a risk that people will not be covered if we have a late flu epidemic”, we explain to the Ministry of Health.

However, last season, the flu epidemic was precisely exceptionally late: it peaked at the beginning of spring and not, as usual, at the turn of the new year.

In any case, the health authorities would like to encourage eligible French people to kill two birds with one stone: get vaccinated against Covid in one arm, and against the flu in the other.

“A certain number of our fellow citizens have reservations (and) we respect that” despite the proven absence of risk, we admit to the ministry. But “the message is still to have the two vaccinations in a relatively short period of time.”

Beyond vaccination alone, the authorities are also trying to articulate a discourse that encompasses the fight against the two diseases, at a time when the current wave of Covid is meeting relatively little media coverage despite hospitalizations and deaths. rising.

“We must not trivialize” the Covid, said Thursday the Minister of Health, François Braun, to AFP “We must also protect against the flu. That’s good, the barrier gestures, they protect from one like the other.”


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