Seasonal flu is a major public health problem that affects between 5% and 20% of the world’s population annually, and is associated with both a high economic and social burden along with high morbidity and mortality. In Spain alone, flu caused an estimated 28,000 hospitalisations and 3,900 deaths in the 2019-2020 season.
Flu vaccination aims to reduce both mortality and morbidity, as well as the impact of the disease on society, and is therefore especially recommended for certain risk groups, such as people over 65, chronic patients and healthcare professionals, among others.
Each year, the flu season runs from week 40 to week 20 of the following year. During this period, there is a significant increase in the risk of infection, especially for the elderly. This year, the Flu Vaccination Campaign began at the end of October and, unless an extension of the deadline is deemed necessary for epidemiological reasons, it will end on 31 January 2022.
Compared to previous years’ campaigns, in the 2019-2020 season, the reported vaccination coverage was the lowest in the last 24 years, with 53.5% of people over 65 years of age vaccinated. Because of this, the targets for the 2020-2021 season were to reach or exceed vaccination coverage of 75% in the elderly and in health and social care workers.
This season was marked by the health, economic and social crisis caused by COVID-19, which, overlapping with flu, increased the perceived risk among the target population. As a result, there was an increase in flu vaccination coverage and, despite the absence of official data, it is expected to exceed 65% among the elderly and 74% among healthcare professionals. Despite this significant increase, flu vaccination rates remain below the targets set, so it is necessary to continue working on raising the vaccination rate.
To this end, it is important to better understand the causes of the recent increase in influenza vaccination rates, its possible link to covid-19 and the population’s motivations to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. According to the report ‘Flu vaccination in Spain in times of COVID-19‘, carried out together with the Weber Foundation in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteu, 72.9% of the people surveyed stated that they had been vaccinated or had an appointment to be vaccinated. This percentage drops to 68.4% in young adults and rises to 91.2% in those over 80. A total of 24.9% would have been vaccinated for the first time that year, citing medical advice (57%), fear of covid-19 (26%), fear of influenza (14%) or other reasons.
For those who have not been vaccinated, the main reasons were lack of perceived risk of getting the flu (34%), lack of time to go to get vaccinated (19%), concerns about side effects or risks of the vaccine (16%) and a perception of low vaccine effectiveness or a preference for natural resistance to the disease (15%).
At Tucuvi we are aware of how vitally important it is to inform the target population about the flu vaccination campaign, as well as trying to mitigate the reasons for non-vaccination with accurate information. For this reason, since October, we have been making calls targeted at patients at risk, in order to increase the vaccination rate. For this, we have focused on two objectives: to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination; and to detect the percentage of unvaccinated people, in order to better understand their reasons and circumstances.
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