How has the Coronavirus pandemic affect Flu and the Flu vaccination?
The pandemic response resulted in much reduced levels of circulating flu virus during the 2020/21 season, which has two main effects:
- Firstly, there will now be less immunity within the general population and more people will be susceptible to the flu, creating conditions that may favour a larger flu outbreak.
- Secondly, low levels of circulating flu virus – globally – make it much harder to predict exactly which flu strains will be coming our way, and therefore make it more difficult to pick the best strains to include in our flu vaccines.
This means, there is uncertainty as to whether this year’s flu season will be a bad one due to decreased herd immunity, especially in babies who are likely to never have been exposed to the flu virus due to social distancing measures for coronavirus. There is also uncertainty as to whether the circulating flu strains will be covered in this year’s vaccine as the vaccine is manufactured when flu was at very low levels it was harder to predict which strains will be dominant this year.
However, on a positive note, the successful Covid-19 vaccination campaign has also clearly demonstrated how vaccination can protect the vulnerable and limit outbreaks in future, and may encourage more people to take advantage of the valuable protection flu vaccination can offer. We are hopeful that uptake of the flu jab will be higher than in previous years as more awareness for respiratory diseases increases.
Additionally, we have made some alterations in how we deliver flu jabs in response to Covid-19. In past years we have operated a walk in services, however since the start of the pandemic we have operated by appointment only. This is a much better system for us to manage the flow of patients and to ensure that we do not have a large number of patients waiting for the vaccine during peak times such as lunch and after work. As a duty of care to our patients, we will still be seeing our patients in full PPE as per the government guidelines to minimise the risk of covid-19 and we kindly ask our patients to continue to wear a mask if they can.