As winter approaches the federal and cantonal governments of Switzerland are hoping a larger number of people than normal will get the seasonal flu jab as the spread of Covid-19 continues, according to RTS.
In a regular year Switzerland orders 1.2 million doses of the seasonal flu vaccine. These doses have already been ordered and will be delivered in late September and early October. This year the federal government is aiming for an additional 400,000 to 600,000 doses.
This would bring the total to 1.6 to 1.8 million doses and allow around 20% of Switzerland’s population to be vaccinated, a rate far higher than normal. In Geneva between 5% and 8% of the population typically get the seasonal flu vaccination.
The objective is to avoid seasonal flu and SARS-CoV-2 co-infection, which could carry increased risks.
New Public Health England research suggests the increased risks could be significant. Researchers analysed data on close to 20,000 people who were tested for both Covid-19 and influenza between 20 January and 25 April 2020. A total of 58 of those tested were positive for both viruses. Among those with co-infection the death rate was 43% compared to 27% of those who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 only. However, it isn’t clear how comparable the two groups were.
The UK has bought a record 30 million doses of flu vaccine and is urging those most at risk and those in contact with high risk people to get vaccinated.
Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is prioritising the vaccination of people most at risk, which includes those over 65, pregnant women, premature babies, people suffering from chronic illnesses and those in contact with them. Initially, the FOPH is not limiting access to the vaccine, however it will reserve stocks for those most at risk if there is a shortage.
This season’s flu is currently circulating in the southern hemisphere, although the number of flu cases there has been dramatically lower than during a normal winter. Measures applied to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have also reduced the spread of the seasonal flu. World Health Organisation (WHO) data show a steep fall in the number of seasonal flu patients in the southern hemisphere during March and April and a low number since then. Similar measures in Switzerland could cut seasonal flu cases in a similar way.