French health services have launched an annual flu vaccine campaign with an emphasis on the importance of the vaccine during the Covid-19 epidemic. Officials boosted orders of doses in hopes of attaining a higher-than-usual rate of participation.
The annual campaign began Tuesday with the aim of reaching the same target groups as a typical year, but with added emphasis on importance in a time that Covid-19 hospital admissions are rising.
“The campaign for the flu vaccine began today, 13 October,” Health Minister Olivier Véran wrote on social media over a promotional video for the annual campaign. “If you are elderly, fragile or provide care in health services including hospitals and care homes, you are priority.”
The campaign targets those most at risk of developing complications in the event of a flu infection: people aged 65 and up or with heart problems, breathing difficulties, obesity, diabetes and other conditions, as well as pregnant and nursing women.
Health officials hope 75 percent of the targeted population takes part in the campaign, an objective shared with the World Health Organization (WHO). Participation in last year’s campaign was 47.8 percent, according to official data.
The health ministry strongly urged people at risk to get vaccinated, underlining in an official statement the potential problems that could be caused by the co-circulation of the flu and the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19.
Boosted communication, same targets
Authorities said they were expanding the communication around the campaign, but maintaining the same targets.
Officials are concerned that a flu epidemic could create further complications for medical services already bracing for a new influx of Covid-19 patients, and want to avoid overcharging hospitals and intensive care units.
“During the 2019-2020 season, three quarters of people admitted to ICU with serious flu were eligible for the vaccine because they presented risk factors," officials said. “However, among them, less than a third had been vaccinated.”
France’s government increased its order of vaccine doses, expecting more people to take part due to the Covid epidemic. But one of the stakes of the flu shot campaign is to ensure doses get to the vulnerable populations.
“In anticipation of an increase in demand this year, the goal is to ensure 30 percent more doses than the 12 million used in 2019-2020 are made available,” the ministry statement said.
“The strategy for 2020-2021, more than ever, puts the emphasis on vulnerable populations and on health professionals.”
Concern over too much demand
Concerned about demand among the general public outstripping supply, officials are calling on those without risk factors to wait until early December before getting the vaccine.
Most people with risk factors are eligible to receive a voucher from the public health service, while others can have the vaccine covered by a doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Some medical experts have suggested the vaccine should be mandatory for care providers.
The flu vaccine campaign lasts until late January 2021.