Prof. Nitsch-Osuch: flu vaccination status in Poland is extremely low
The level of vaccination in Poland is extremely low – it is from 4 to 6 percent of the general population, and in children it is only 1-2 percent. Complications after the flu can be fatal, so we can’t say that we are “only” sick with the flu. He is sick with the flu, Prof. Aneta Nitsch-Osuch.
In the flu season 2022/2023, in the period from September 1, 2022 to February 28, 2023, a total of 4,339,588 reports of cases or suspected cases of influenza were reported in Poland, according to the epidemiological reports of the National Institute of Public Health – National Institute of Hygiene. Over 4 million cases and 114 deaths caused by the seasonal flu virus have been reported. In February, 17 people died from the flu, but in January, 71 people died.
Prof. Aneta Nitsch-Osuch, who is a regional consultant in Mazovia for epidemiology and head of the Department of Social Medicine and Public Health at the Medical University of Warsaw, emphasized in an interview with PAP that the course of influenza itself is not burdened with a higher risk of complications than in previous years, especially before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But what we warned about has happened – after years of epidemiological silence of influenza, we are simply experiencing its return” – she said.
She noted that the The epidemiological calm took place in the era of COVID-19, when the number of flu cases dramatically decreased not only in Poland, but around the world. “This was due to the anti-covid restrictions in place. Masks and the fact that we had less contact with other people resulted in a lower chance of transmission of airborne pathogens. This concerned not only influenza, but also, for example, chickenpox or pneumococcal infections” – pointed out prof. Nitsch-Osuch.
“Let’s not be surprised that the flu attacked Poland with double strength. This is related to the flu vaccination status of the general population. We have nothing to brag about, because for many years the level of vaccination in Poland has been extremely low – it ranges from 4 to 6 percent in the general population. An extremely low rate: 1-2 percent occurs in children, who are, after all, the main reservoir of the flu virus” – she pointed out.
Among people over 65, 23 percent are vaccinated. “It can be assumed that every fourth senior in Poland is vaccinated against influenza. But even this indicator, which may seem high to us compared to the general population, is still not enough. WHO recommends the implementation of the vaccination rate of the population at risk, and this group includes seniors, at the level of 75%. she emphasized.
Prof. Nitsch-Osuch also referred to the number of deaths in the 2022/2023 flu season due to post-influenza complications. “Recently, 114 deaths due to influenza and its complications have been reported in our country, although of course there were years when there were 120 or 150 of them. however, over 100 deaths, human tragedies, which could have been largely avoided thanks to vaccinations” – she said.
“Although we are talking about the flu and this topic appears in the public space, I believe that publicizing the problem is not effective. Educational campaigns aimed at society should be a process, not a one-time event. They have to be repeated every season.
“It was a good step to introduce vaccinations in pharmacies – it definitely makes it easier to get vaccinated and it should continue like this. Perhaps it is worth introducing even more campaigns reminding about the possibility of vaccination, but also about preventive examinations or mammography – for example by sending reminder text messages. Certainly a good idea is also to set an example from public figures – known, popular and liked, who vaccinate themselves and their families in the light of flashes. The experience of other countries shows that this brings more interest and better +vaccination+” – she pointed out.
Prof. Nitsch-Osuch also stipulated that in no case should flu be confused with a cold. “Influenza is characterized by serious complications, such as myocarditis. You can die from the flu and its complications. This is not the case with the common cold. You absolutely cannot equate it, or say that I only have the flu. I’m sick with the flu,” she said.
Therefore – as she emphasized – social campaigns aimed at increasing awareness of the disease, the frequency of the disease, its course and the safety and effectiveness of vaccinations were, are and will continue to be needed. At the same time, she noted that much has changed in our country for the benefit of flu vaccinations – public funding for vaccinations has been ensured – the flu vaccine is free for seniors and pregnant women, and people from all risk groups, including children, can buy the vaccine covered by a 50% refund. (PAP)
Author: Agata Zbieg