Covid-19 – Coronavirus and flu wave collide


The number of coronavirus infections continues to rise around the world, and as the season progresses, experts are also discussing the effects on diseases caused by other pathogens in the winter. So, for example, numerous cases of corona infections and the flu wave could collide. One question is currently dominant: is the amount of influenza vaccine sufficient?

Germany could provide 26 million doses of the flu vaccine this season, according to Federal Health Minister Spahn. His ministry has ordered so many doses of vaccination – this is more than ever. Spahn defended himself from fears that there might be an insufficient supply: bottlenecks are currently possible in local and temporal deliveries. The vaccine is not delivered in a day, but is gradually available. Vaccination doses would be gradually made available whenever needed, the CDU politician added. It makes sense to get vaccinated in November or December.

Have you ordered too many doses of the vaccine?

According to Spahns, an average of four to six million doses of the vaccine have been destroyed in recent years because they have not been used. The Minister of Health appealed to those for whom the Standing Commission on Vaccinations recommends vaccination – i.e. so-called risk groups such as the chronically ill, the elderly, pregnant women, medical and nursing staff – to take vaccinate. This is not only important to prevent so-called superinfection for each individual – a combination of influenza and coronavirus infections, for example – but also to protect the health system. The fewer people contract the flu, the more skills would be available to other patients, especially those with Covid 19, Spahn pointed out.

Not even enough for at-risk patients?

The background for Spahn’s statements was an appeal by pediatricians in Germany. The president of the federal association, Fischbach, warned in the “Augsburger Allgemeine” of a shortage of flu vaccines. The amount of 26 million doses of the vaccine provided by the federal government isn’t even enough for all patients at risk, says Fischbach. With this planned amount, it is assumed that the vaccination rate will remain low.
It is of the opinion that the amount of vaccine is sufficient for only about two thirds of patients at risk. It also supported the vaccination of children and adolescents in general. These would fuel waves of flu by first getting sick and then infecting others.

The World Health Organization even recommends regular flu vaccination for all babies from the age of six months. In the United States, nearly 60% of children are currently vaccinated and the number is increasing. In the EU, the first countries are following the WHO recommendation to vaccinate all children against the flu, such as Great Britain and Finland.

The president of the German medical association, Reinhardt, urged teachers and nursery staff to get vaccinated against flu. The expected flu surge shouldn’t endanger the functioning of schools and daycare centers, Funke told the media group. Due to the distance and the applicable hygiene regulations, the flu wave may be more harmless than in previous years. However, vaccination is important, also in view of the pandemic. The flu shot does not work against coronavirus, but like any vaccination it is a training program for the immune system.

Scientists warn against clashes

A British study sought to describe how great the risk is when influenza viruses and corona pathogens meet. 37 scientists warn of this collision between a pandemic and a flu wave. Also, the risk of infection increases in the winter as people spend more time indoors. As a result, a second corona outbreak between fall 2020 and early summer 2021 could be significantly worse than the first, the researchers point out. They assume a “worst case scenario” for Britain with up to 120,000 deaths.

According to the World Health Organization, Europe must prepare for an increase in daily deaths per crown in the fall. WHO regional director Kluge told AFP news agency that higher death rates will be observed in October and November. He also cautioned not to set too high expectations on vaccines. It is still unclear whether a vaccine can help all population groups, Kluge pointed out.

Masks and distance: how high is the risk of infection?

There are also rumors that the flu epidemic is likely to be weaker this year than in previous years. Due to distance rules and increased hygienic behavior, the overall risk of infection is currently overall lower than usual, said, for example, Federal President of the German Association of GPs, Ulrich Weigeldt, of the media group Funke. He advocates maintaining the rules of conduct that have now been proven even after the end of the pandemic: “Above all, frequent and thorough hand washing and ventilation”.

A look at other parts of the world makes it possible to make an initial possible assessment of the dangerous situation: in the countries of the southern hemisphere, influenza virus infections have significantly decreased as a result of the corona measures. This is evidenced by data evaluated by the US health authority CDC. As a result, a corresponding flu infection between April and July was detected in only 51 of the more than 83,000 samples from Australia, Chile and South Africa. In previous years, there had been an average of 24,000 positive results from 178,000 samples in these countries.

The CDC does not consider a connection with measures to contain the crown, such as keeping distances or masks to try, but plausible. The findings would indicate that appropriate measures could be a useful addition to flu vaccination to protect particularly at-risk groups, he says. The CDC suspects that the flu surge in the Northern Hemisphere could be significantly smaller this winter if measures to contain the coronavirus continued.

Coronavirus: immune to seasonal fluctuations?

Due to the low number of flu cases in the spring, the RKI ended the flu season two months earlier than usual. It normally lasts from the beginning of October to mid-May. University of Münster virologist Stephan Ludwig told Deutschlandfunk that flu-like infections in Germany during the blockade in the spring had abruptly decreased, but the SARS-CoV-2 virus had “held up well,” even on hot days. inside. Corona does not show this kind of seasonality that you can see with the flu, for example, he pointed out: “On the contrary, this could mean that it is not as bad in winter or fall, when it is cooler, as it is with, for for example, a flu epidemic may occur. “

RKI on the risk of influenza viruses

The president of the Robert Koch Institute, Wieler, pointed out that in some regions of the world, surveillance of influenza is neglected for cost reasons. But it is particularly important to vaccine development that investigations continue. The flu vaccine is updated annually to reflect the changing strains of the virus.

According to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute, 5 to 20% of the population is infected during a flu epidemic. The number of deaths varies according to the severity of the outbreak. According to the RKI, a particularly large number of people died of the flu in the 2017/2018 season, around 25,000. However, only about a third of the German population is vaccinated. The WHO and EU target is 75%.

Vaccinations also possible in pharmacies

To get closer to this level of vaccination coverage, those with legal health insurance in parts of North Rhine-Westphalia can, in principle, get flu vaccinated in pharmacies as well. The model project is unique in Germany and will initially run for three years. Vaccinations in doctor’s offices are still possible, he said. The peak of the flu wave is usually in January / February.

One in two Germans wants to be vaccinated against the flu

In fact, according to a survey, about one in two Germans want to be vaccinated against the flu this year. In the Civey Institute survey for the “Augsburger Allgemeine”, 51.5% of the 5,002 respondents plan to be vaccinated this year as early as August. 41.3 percent, however, refused to be vaccinated. Older people, in particular, have expressed a willingness to be vaccinated against the flu. In a similar survey from the previous year, only about 30% of respondents said they wanted to be vaccinated.

The Federal Association of German Pharmacist Associations provides other numbers and refers to a representative survey: according to this, almost one in two adults in this country belonging to a risk group does not yet want to be vaccinated against influenza.

(Stand: 14.10.2020)

More articles on the coronavirus

We have created a news blog. In view of the large amount of information, this provides an overview of the most important current developments.

Numbers and dates

+ Current developments: Coronavirus data in Germany (as of 27 October)
+ Situation in Germany: What does the rapid increase in new infections and the incidence value mean? (Status: 22/10)
+ Classification: what numbers do we mention on coronavirus and why (as of: 22/08)

Test and protection

+ Coronavirus test: when, where and how? (As of: 28.09.)
+ Corona infection: how reliable are the tests? (Status: 08.10)
+ Treatment: this is how far research on coronavirus vaccines is (as of 20 October)
+ Remdesivir and Co: How far is the search for drugs against Covid-19? (Starting October 16)
+ Infection: what we know so far about reinfections and coronavirus immunity (as of 10.10.)
+ Hospitals: What the rise in corona infections means for them (from 15 October)

Contagion and transmission

+ Transfer: what role do aerosols play (as of 10.10.)
+ Surfaces: how long does the coronavirus last (from 12 October)
+ Face Masks: What You Should Know About Protective Masks (as of: 24.09.)
+ Autumn: What to do when the crown and flu wave collide (starting October 14)
+ Excess Mortality: How Deadly Is Coronavirus Really? (Status: 10.10.)
+ “Superspreader Events”: when demos, celebrations and events become a problem (starting October 13)

Holidays and free time

+ Customs: what remains of the carnival in this session (as of 19.09)
+ Club: what about the opening of the discos (from 03.10.)
+ Travel Notice: Current List of Hazardous Areas (as of 22 October)
+ Overview: Housing bans in the federal states (from 17 October)
+ Repatriated travelers and partygoers: those who are currently increasing the number of German infections (as of 10.10.)

You can also find DLF news on Twitter at: @DLFNews.

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