★ Influenza vaccination coverage is declining across the board due to rising influenza incidence and hospitalizations.

Influenza vaccination coverage in Spain has recorded its lowest level in 4 years. According to experts, this multifactorial situation can be explained by slightly lower risk perception among the population due to atypical circulation of the virus in post-pandemic winters, a possible weakening in the strength of influenza vaccination recommendations, and possible vaccine fatigue. following the normalization of the global health situation caused by COVID 19.

Professor Raúl Ortiz de Lejarazu Leonardo, honorary director and scientific consultant of the National Influenza Center of Valladolid (GISRS/WHO-WHO), who assessed the final Gripometer data for 2023-2024, points out that “it is important to convey to the population that the Influenza Vaccine “Influenza is not administered to prevent mild or moderate cases that can be treated at home, but its administration is intended to prevent severe cases that could lead to hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, mechanical ventilation or even death.”

He also notes that “we must take into account the paradigm of vaccines that are not guaranteed to be 100% effective, which makes it even more important to extend vaccination to as many people as possible. The larger proportion of the population that receives the vaccine, the more difficult it will be for the virus to cause serious or fatal cases in the wider community, and the burden on hospitals from influenza will be lower, avoiding the public health consequences of other emergencies. pathology”.

Coverage and analysis by group:

Population over 65 years of age:

A significant decline in the vaccination rate is observed among those over 65 years of age in most autonomous communities, ranging from 1.1% to 8%, with the average estimate for Spain down 3 percentage points compared to last year. “This group requires greater vaccination coverage because it is the most vulnerable and includes a high percentage of people with comorbidities (cardiovascular, pulmonary, hypertension, diabetes, etc.). This results in serious cases that require the use of critical medical services such as emergency departments, hospitals, and intensive care beds, which significantly overburdens the healthcare system as it typically results in prolonged hospital stays.

Population 60 to 64 years old:

Despite the extension of vaccination recommendations to the population over 60 years of age in all autonomous regions that recognize this age segment as a risk group, coverage of this group of people decreased by 2.5% compared to the previous year. at 34.7%. One key factor in understanding the low vaccination coverage in this group is the low perception of risk associated with influenza infection, which is also highlighted by the Gripometer data. “The decline in vaccination rates in this population anticipates future trends for the over-65 group and should be corrected as soon as possible.”

Population from 18 to 59 years old:

This population group, made up mostly of working age people, saw the smallest decline in coverage at 11.6%, down just one-tenth from the previous year. “This is because this is the population that has historically had the lowest vaccination rates. Therefore, when percentages reflect a minimum level of vaccination, one would expect an increase rather than a decrease.” “However, it is also vital to increase referral efforts to this group as it contains the largest absolute number of people with conditions such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and asthma, as well as those living with vulnerable people.”

Population under 5 years of age

This year, for the first time in all autonomous regions, flu vaccination is available for children from 6 months to 5 years. Galicia, Murcia and Andalusia were the pioneers in offering vaccination to this group in the previous campaign and they have achieved the best results this season, surpassing their own figures achieved in the 2022-2023 season. “The CCAA, which started its activity last year, has better data than others, indicating optimism for the future, since when the factors of experience (know-how) in Galicia, Murcia and Andalusia are studied, the three CCAAs that vaccinated in the past year, it is likely that the remaining autonomous communities will improve their percentages.” Vaccination against childhood influenza not only directly protects children by preventing children from being hospitalized, but also plays a fundamental role in stopping the spread of the virus to other populations. Thus, it is expected that “as the spin-off benefits of childhood vaccination become better understood, coverage levels will improve.”

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