Government targets 200,000 flu shots this year

Government intends to buy up to 200,000 flu vaccines this year as it tries to dilute the dual impact of seasonal flu and COVID-19

The influenza season starts in October and last until May with the peak being reached around the end of January
The influenza season starts in October and last until May with the peak being reached around the end of January

The health authorities are aiming to acquire 200,000 flu vaccine shots come October in an attempt to double last season’s reach, Health Minister Chris Fearne said.

The move is in line with government’s intention to try and decrease the pressure on health resources from the seasonal flu at a time when many fear a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Fearne said earlier today that the intention is to double the number of vaccinated individuals this year. In the last flu season, the health authorities had acquired 100,000 vaccines and distributed just over 90,000 for free by January.

“We will be insisting that more people take the seasonal influenza vaccine come October,” Fearne said.

Asked for more details, he said the government wanted to buy between 150,000 and 200,000 flu shots this year with a strong effort to have more people vaccinated.

The seasonal influenza season occurs between October and May, with the peak normally reached by the end of January.

Last January, Public Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci said the community rate for influenza was of 10 persons from every 100 who visited their family doctor. In the previous season, the rate had topped 16 out of every 100.

Influenza typically affects about 20% of the population. Influenza viruses are constantly changing. Therefore, the vaccines are updated upon recommendations of the World Health Organisation.

Government normally offers the vaccine for free to the elderly, people with chronic conditions and children under five years of age in the first phase, widening the net to everybody else in subsequent phases.

Last month Gauci told MaltaToday the authorities were evaluating the possibility of making the vaccine mandatory for certain groups of individuals.

“We normally offer the seasonal influenza vaccine for free, initially to the elderly, people with chronic conditions and children under five. We are evaluating the benefits and added value of making the seasonal influenza vaccine mandatory for certain groups,” she said.

But Gauci also added that face masks, and the hygiene and social distancing measures people had got used to during the COVID-19 pandemic would also be useful to contain the spread of seasonal influenza.

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