Flu season: authorities call for flu vaccination

Cough, runny nose; Headache and fever: The flu season has reached Germany and the health authorities are not only calling on older, chronically ill people, but for the first time also pregnant women to be vaccinated. According to Klaus Cichutek, President of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, the current vaccine protects against the three most common types of influenza viruses, including swine flu, which will occur again in Germany this year.

(26.09.2010) The flu season has reached Germany and the health authorities are not only calling on older, chronically ill people, but for the first time also pregnant women to be vaccinated. Every year the health authorities recommend flu vaccination again, but the Germans have so far only hesitantly followed their call. Those who get vaccinated "not only protect themselves from severe influenza, but also avoid infecting others", emphasizes Reinhard Burger, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and warns against underestimating the flu as an infectious disease Germans are critical of the vaccinations, however, and not only representatives of naturopathy are pointing out the possible side effects of flu vaccinations. However, the health authorities are certain that the vaccination rates in the population are currently too low and must be increased in order to sustain major flu waves According to RKI President Burger, vaccination rates of 50 to 60 percent, which are the rule in Scandinavian countries, would also be desirable in Germany in the long term.

The vaccination recommendation for pregnant women is a consequence of the severe course of the disease that swine flu took from many sick expectant mothers last year. The vaccination commission therefore advises pregnant women from the second trimester of pregnancy to have the flu vaccination. "We have seen in diseases with the swine flu virus A-H1N1 that pregnant women develop severe pneumonia three times as often as other adults than other adults," explains Ole Wichmann from the RKI. In addition, the 10 years of vaccination experience with pregnant women from the USA are extremely positive. Side effects hardly occurred and the vaccination protection also affects the unborn child.

Anyone who has had swine flu is very likely immune to the H1N1 virus
According to the RKI experts, anyone who had swine flu last year is likely to be immune to the H1N1 pathogen this year. However, there is a relatively high risk of contracting any of the other flu pathogens. The flu vaccination also protects against the flu viruses H3N2 currently circulating in the southern hemisphere and the influenza B virus. One of the 18 approved vaccines also contains a potentiator; so that people over the age of 65 can still build up effective vaccination protection. Because "our immune system ages with it", explains Klaus Cichutek and "so that it still responds well to the flu vaccination, one of the total of 18 approved influenza vaccines contains an effect-enhancing additive."

The potentiators were heavily criticized last year in connection with the swine flu vaccine because they can cause massive side effects. This year, for a reason, the Paul Ehrlich Institute made sure that 17 out of 18 preparations should not contain any corresponding additives. Of course, the responsible health authorities also have a natural interest in drugs that do not have side effects and since vaccinations are usually subject to greater reservations than general medical treatments, special care is required here. Because experts like Peter Wutzler, President of the German Association for Combating Virus Diseases, “fear that vaccination rates will fall below the numbers of the past few years, which are not satisfactory anyway." Wutzler emphasizes: "Influenza is not harmless. We have had 3,000 to 5,000 deaths annually for 20 years. "

Even young children should be vaccinated
If the President of the German Association for the Fight against Virus Diseases has its way, even small children should be vaccinated against flu, although Peter Wutzler goes further than the Standing Vaccination Commission with this demand. This recommends parents only to have children with previous illnesses vaccinated against the flu. Wutzler, on the other hand, explains that "it is a fact that children can be described as the fire of influenza." and that the viruses are picked up in kindergartens, daycare centers and schools and carried home. "That is why children should definitely be vaccinated, also to protect adults from the flu," said Wutzler.

Doctors and medical staff are urged by the health authorities to vaccinate in order to avoid infection of the patients they care for. In the opinion of Birte Kirschbaum from the Federal Center for Health Education (BzgA), the current vaccination rate of 20 to 25 percent is far from sufficient. "The family doctor is the central personality for the acceptance of a flu vaccination. We have to start there and convince the doctors that a vaccination makes sense," emphasized Peter Wutzler. And Ole Wichmann from the RKI adds: "Of course we would like doctors and nursing staff to take responsibility on their own initiative so that they do not unnecessarily endanger their patients." The BzgA made new information material available to all 65,000 resident doctors in order to achieve a higher vaccination rate among the risk groups.

Millions of people fall ill with flu every year across Germany. For many people affected, such as people with a weakened immune system, chronic lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, the infection is a serious health threat. According to estimates by the Influenza Working Group at the Robert Koch Institute, around 2.9 million additional visits to the doctor and 5,300 influenza-related admissions to clinics were necessary in the last flu season, with influenza sufferers being unable to work around 1.5 million times.

Critical voices about vaccination
However, there are also critical voices who do not want to follow a vaccination recommendation unreservedly. For example, some doctors are involved in the association "Doctors for an Individual Vaccination Decision". Although the doctors of the association are not fundamentally against preventive vaccinations, they criticize the undifferentiated discussion in public. Because vaccines can - like all drugs - lead to serious, undesirable side effects, which in individual cases can also end in permanent health impairment for the person concerned. While such incidents are relatively rare, patients should be given full information about them.

As a preventive measure taken on healthy people, vaccinations must meet particularly high safety standards, according to the association. Therefore, in each individual case, it should be weighed up whether the risks of the respective possible illness are in relation to the possible side effects. Therefore, according to the association, it is of the utmost importance that actually healthy people are comprehensively informed about the short, medium and long-term effects of vaccines and vaccination measures. The doctors also criticize the fact that pharmaceutical companies hardly provide any information about possible health consequences. Because studies on long-term vaccination effects and the sustainability of vaccination programs are still almost completely missing. The swine flu hysteria had shown that even the WHO is riddled with employees from the pharmaceutical lobby. A vaccination decision should be made based on whether the medical benefit actually outweighs the possible risk. This decision should be made together with the trusted doctor. (fp, sb)

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Health authorities are calling for the flu vaccination
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