Reasons for the failure of the flu vaccination campaign after a wave of infections

The wave of flu that is still being felt in Spain appears to have subsided slightly over the past week. The latest figures recorded by the Ministry of Health reflect the first decline in cumulative incidence in primary health care facilities in four weeks.

In a report published this Thursday, the department headed by Mónica García points to a decrease in cases of respiratory infections in ten autonomous communities, although it also points to an increase in three others: Aragon, Catalonia and Navarre.

But even before the media began talking about the alarming rise in infections, various administrations, both regional and national, launched… a vaccination campaign that was the opposite of success.

Far from the goal

On September 12, the Public Health Commission approved a set of consensus recommendations to set guidelines for the vaccination campaign that began a month later across almost the entire country.

This document discussed some of the goals, such as “strengthening the protection of the most vulnerable people and medical and social health staff to reduce morbidity and mortality, and the impact of these diseases on health and social health capacity.” .

The Ministry of Health recommended that “target population groups” be vaccinated during the autumn-winter season: people aged 60 years and older, people aged 5 years and older or older in disability centers and nursing homes, pregnant women in any trimester of pregnancy and women under 6 months after childbirth, and also living with people with weakened immune systems.

They also recommended that another group of people protect themselves from flu and covid. In particular, personnel of public and private medical and socio-medical centers and institutions, as well as those working in essential public services, such as public security forces, firefighters or civil protection services.

Health sets target in vaccination campaign coverage will exceed 75% among older people, as well as among medical and social staffand also adds more than 60% in the case of pregnant women and people at risk of developing diseases.

But warnings from various administrations have not had the desired effect, and with a wave of flu that has continued to strain medical centers in recent weeks, it has become clear that the campaign is riddled with serious flaws.

The numbers are far from expected

In November, important voices of alarm were already heard, indicating the lack of desire of many people to go to medical centers to protect themselves from various viruses.

He Observatory of Influenza Vaccination in Spain 2023 warned that only 44% of the Spanish population intended to be vaccinatedwhich is five points lower than the same survey in 2022.

One of the criticisms raised in this analysis was the lack of information. 80% of respondents said they did not have enough information to consider vaccination necessary and explained that their main source of information was the media.

Some warnings were not enough for the various administrations to focus on raising awareness in the following weeks, and which were a prelude to the data that has been recorded to date.

Preliminary data shows that only 65% ​​of the population over 65 have been vaccinated against influenza. Although, according to statistics from Gripometro, the weekly monitoring usually carried out by Sanofi, only two communities had a rate above 75%: Navarre and La Rioja. Something that contrasts with the 50% of the Canary Islands, 52% of the Balearic Islands or 54% of Catalonia.

The “flooded river” that Health Minister Monica García spoke about in an interview with the Telecinco program, Critical viewbefore justifying that “we’re going to assess whether there was relax during a vaccination campaign or if the population, since Covid is already milder, assumes that the flu does not need these measures.”

Things that have failed

Daniel Lopez AcuñaThe epidemiologist and former director of public health at the World Health Organization (WHO) admits there have been several mistakes by administrations since the first vaccines began to be administered.

While he stresses that the rise in infections seen in recent weeks “is a phenomenon that is happening across Europe”, he believes there are “three main factors”.

“Health authorities should have carried out a more intensive social pedagogy information campaign to highlight the need to get vaccinated. For example, children. The health education scheme has failed,” he lists first.

Daniel Lopez Acuña believes that “vaccination strategy failed“It was passive, people knew they needed to get the Covid and flu vaccine. He takes too many things for granted. They should have called people who are part of the target group for mass vaccination on special days,” he adds.

The former director of public health at the World Health Organization (WHO) also highlights a third problem: “fatigue for everyone,” including health workers and managers. “We must not let our guard down. That’s why they should have taken the previous two steps. There was no need to wait until now,” he reasons.

Health authorities should conduct a more intensive public awareness campaign.

Daniel Lopez Acuña, epidemiologist and former director of public health at the World Health Organization (WHO)

The epidemiologist also emphasizes that the response in some regions has been good, for example in Asturias, where “vaccination points will be set up without prior appointment”, and invites people to follow the same steps because “there are still winter months“.

Regarding flu vaccination coverage, Daniel Lopez Acuña believes that “we have been too sluggish” in vaccination efforts and now is the time “sorry about it“The main thing is to increase vaccinations and restore masks in medical centers. We were too weak“, he justifies himself.

The former director of public health at WHO emphasizes the decision of the Ministry of Health to return the mask to medical centers and in fact advises the population to continue to use it in crowded places, such as public transport. “This will help stop infections“, he assesses.

With infections down slightly, now is the time to reinforce messages to target populations about the importance of protecting themselves from the virus, and some communities are already trying to regain ground lost to the alarming wave of infections. , notice in Spain.

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