Influenza: Who should get the vaccine – When should the vaccine be given?

The protection of the population against the flu , due to the coronavirus pandemic, is a top priority of the Authorities.

The final circular of the Ministry of Health – which this year provided 4.2 million vaccines – for the flu states that the most effective way of prevention is the vaccination with the flu vaccine, which, when administered correctly and in time, protects against the transmission of the virus. influenza, helps to protect against the serious complications of the flu and consequently to reduce absences from work, school and any other social event.

“As every year and because the flu virus mutates into different subtypes, so for the period 2020-2021 the composition of the flu vaccine contains the approved strains of the virus, according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO). For this year, according to the National Vaccination Program, any flu vaccine (licensed), the composition of which contains the approved strains by the Hellenic Medicines Agency (EOF) can be prescribed. It is pointed out that, through the pharmacovigilance systems that operate internationally, no serious systemic side effects of the influenza vaccine have been recorded “, it is pointed out in the circular.

At the same time, it is noted that it is expected that during the next flu season 2020-2021, the flu virus will circulate in parallel with the SARS-CoV-2 virus , which causes coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19).

This particular situation requires the most complete implementation of influenza vaccination in the coming period, with priority given to the vaccination of individuals belonging to high-risk groups. “The aim is to reduce the chances of simultaneous infection with both viruses, which can aggravate the condition of patients, as well as to reduce the burden on health services, especially Intensive Care Units, so that they can better respond to a possible increased demand “states the Ministry of Health.

It should be noted that, despite the disturbing … similarities, there are symptoms that distinguish the flu, the coronavirus and the common cold.

High risk groups: Who should get the flu vaccine first
According to the National Vaccination Program of our country, influenza vaccination should be applied systematically and as a priority to individuals (adults and children) who belong to the following groups at increased risk:

   1. People aged 60 and over
   2. Children (6 months and older) and adults with one or more of the following aggravating factors or chronic diseases: Chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Heart disease with severe hemodynamic disorder. Immunosuppression (hereditary or acquired). Organ transplantation and bone marrow transplantation. Sickle cell anemia (and other hemoglobinopathies). Diabetes mellitus or other chronic metabolic disease. Chronic kidney disease. Chronic liver disease. Neurological-neuromuscular diseases. Down Syndrome
   3. Pregnant women regardless of gestational age, breastfeeding and breastfeeding.
   4. People with morbid obesity (Body Mass Index> 40Kg / m2) and children with BMI> 95n.
   5. Children taking long-term aspirin (eg for Kawasaki disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.).
   6. People who are in close contact with children under 6 months of age or who care for or live with people with an underlying illness, which increases the risk of complications from the flu.
   7. Closed populations, such as staff and internal students (schools, military and police schools, special schools, etc.), new recruits, institutions for the chronically ill and nursing homes, detention facilities.
   8. Employees in areas of health services (medical staff, other employees, students of health professions in clinical practice) and in accommodation centers for refugees-immigrants.
   9. Homeless.
   10. Veterinarians, poultry farmers, pig farmers, breeders, slaughterers and generally people who come into regular contact with birds or pigs.

When should the vaccine be given to be effective?
The flu vaccine should be given early and before the onset of the usual flu-onset period, as it takes about 2 weeks to achieve an immune response.

Preferably, the vaccination should be completed at least 4-6 weeks before the start of the annual flu epidemic in Greece (ie in mid-to the end of November). In addition, vaccination is continued throughout the seasonal flu for people for whom vaccination is indicated and who have not been vaccinated in time.

Influenza vaccination generally involves only 1 dose of the vaccine per year. Infants and children <9 years of age who are being vaccinated for the first time, or those <9 years of age who have previously received only 1 dose of influenza vaccine need 2 doses of flu vaccine at least 28 days apart. Infants> = 6 months of age are given 0.5 ml (the whole dose), according to the instructions from official European or other drug agencies (FDA, Coreper, etc.).

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