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The WHO Sounds the Senior Flu Alarm in Europe — Precision …

Fewer than 33 percent of seniors in the EU have been vaccinated for seasonal influenza over the last seven years.

This low vaccination uptake in Europe jeopardizes the capacity to protect people during annual epidemics and the next pandemic said the World Health Organization (WHO).

Additionally, as the 2017/18 influenza season peaks in western Europe, a number of countries are reporting excess mortality among the elderly.

These are the results of the first comprehensive overview of seasonal influenza vaccine coverage in the European Region of the WHO between 2008/09 and 2014/15.

The WHO and partners estimate that over 44,000 people die annually of respiratory diseases associated with seasonal influenza in the European Region.

Over 75 percent of these flu-related deaths in Europe are seniors 65+ years.

Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “This is of serious concern now for people at higher risk of severe consequences, especially older people, and in the future for the entire population, as the production of pandemic vaccines is closely linked to seasonal vaccine use.”

“All European Union Member States have signed up to the goal of reaching 75% uptake among older people and other vulnerable groups; however, these targets are not being reached”, says Dr. Andrea Ammon, Director of ECDC.

As for the other at-risk groups:

  • Flu vaccination was generally recommended for people with chronic illnesses; however, coverage was below 40% in most countries;
  • almost all countries recommended influenza vaccination for health-care workers, but the majority reported influenza vaccine uptake as being as low as 40%;
  • in total, 90% of countries had vaccine recommendations for pregnant women in 2014/2015, compared with 40% before the 2009 A(H1N1) pandemic; however, coverage overall was low, with half the countries reporting uptake below 10%;
  • fewer than half the countries, most of them in eastern Europe, recommended influenza vaccination for young children; vaccination coverage ranged from less than 1% to 80%.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk for exposure to influenza during travel depends on the time of year and destination.

In the Northern Hemisphere, and in Europe, the flu season can begin as early as October and can last as late as April or May.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine yearly. People should get vaccinated at least 2 weeks before travel because it takes 2 weeks for vaccine immunity to develop after vaccination.

Most pharmacies in the USA offer vaccination services.

The flu shot cost varies depending on your insurance and which state you live.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector vaccine prices for general information.

Flu vaccine discounts can be found here.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects, says the CDC. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.

This WHO overview appears in a peer-reviewed scientific article published in Vaccine in January 2018, based on data from the Vaccine European New Integrated Collaboration Effort (VENICE III) and WHO surveys.


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