How the Covid-19 Pandemic Could Impact This Year’s Flu Season: Vaccination Recommendations and Immunity

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 completely disrupted the natural epidemiological cycle of seasonal flu, common in the winter months. With the implementation of such exhaustive preventive measures to deal with Covid-19 – such as social distancing, the use of masks indoors or constant disinfection with hydroalcoholic gel – it seemed to have “disappeared”.

Three years later, these habits have relaxed, a factor to take into account and that, together with the lack of exposure to the virus, could translate, experts warn, into a “more intense” incidence this season, a consequence of low immunity. presented by today’s society. Given this situation, the main recommendation is to obey the guidelines of the vaccination campaign, especially those under 5 years of age and over 60. The latter enter this year for the first time in the quota established by the Junta de Andalucía to be vaccinated, which until 2022 It started at 65. The Ministry of Health has conveyed to this newspaper its concern about the “resistance” that this new group is demonstrating both in the province of Granada and in the rest of the autonomous community. In fact, it is a problem that is occurring throughout Spain.

“The change in temperatures this summer autumn makes the incidence less frequent, so we do not perceive the virus as being so dangerous and many people do not get vaccinated,” the doctor specializing in Preventive Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health José Martínez explained to IDEAL. Olmos, also a teacher at the Andalusian School of Public Health.

According to him, “the wave will most likely be delayed.” The peak of seasonal flu infections usually occurs between the end of December and the end of January, but this winter the incidence could arrive later. «The point is that we are on time. Health services have the vaccines and the professionals and society have the accessibility to take advantage of this opportunity,” the doctor insisted.

“Higher” risk

For her part, the professor and director of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Granada, Aurora Bueno, pointed out that “in past seasons we have not had the flu because we have had exhaustive preventive measures with the coronavirus.” That is, since 2020 there has been a very low circulation of flu, “the risk is increasingly higher because immunity is fading,” she warned.

Therefore, “when a wave comes, it is possible that there will be many more cases and that the incidence will be more intense,” although there is no indication that any virus not contemplated in the flu vaccine and in the case of covid will circulate. , whether a wave occurs will depend on whether a strain appears that bypasses the immune barrier. Be that as it may, “we will find out when it starts circulating in Europe.”

The network of sentinel doctors takes samples from the population in primary and hospital care to know “what is circulating.” “The problem is that everything can change from one week to the next and it is advisable to get vaccinated at least two weeks before the virus appears, so the ideal time to get vaccinated is now,” Bueno stressed.

Predicting the incidence “is always a mystery” because the flu virus mutates quickly. The vaccine is produced in anticipation of what the prevalent strain will be that year. “Sometimes, it is completely right and other times, not so much,” said the professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the UGR, an expert in Immunology, Ignacio Molina. According to him, “we cannot forget that its mortality rate is appreciable, it is not a completely harmless pathogen.”

“There is little respect for it because it is confused with common colds when they are completely different and entails very severe complications,” Molina highlighted. Every year, depending on the strains, between 2,000 and 15,000 deaths from flu are recorded in Spain, so “it is essential to maintain the level of immunity in the population.”

Who should get vaccinated?

The flu vaccine has demonstrated effective protection, does not cause side effects and promotes the maintenance of quality of life, which is why many companies finance it for their workers. Anyone can wear it, but it is especially indicated for people over 60 years of age, considered at risk, as well as people with chronic, cardiovascular or pulmonary pathologies, high blood pressure or diabetes, among others.

They also recommend its administration to children under 5 years of age, “because they have not had previous exposure to the virus and are the ones who contribute the most to spreading the disease.” Added to this is Christmas, a time of gatherings and gatherings that multiplies infections. Therefore, “it is important to adopt measures such as social distancing or the use of masks, which have worked reasonably in the covid, and get vaccinated to increase immunity.”

2023-11-27 23:25:37
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