The coming months are likely to include a more traditional winter nuisance during pandemics: the flu.
As countries from Italy to Canada lift restrictions, resume travel and cool temperatures set in, influenza will probably start circulating as well. This was followed by measures to thwart COVID-19 like masks and ventilation that kept the flu at bay for the past year and a half.
Efforts are already underway to reduce the potential pressure on health systems dealing with both diseases. A UK study released late Thursday showed that it is safer for people to get the COVID and flu shots at the same time, which could help scale up the vaccine and cut down on appointments as the country has been receiving booster doses. begins.
“This is a real concern for policymakers,” Imperial College epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, whose models are used by the UK government, said at a conference in Paris. “It is highly likely that we will continue to see high levels of COVID circulation through the winter, and having seasonal flu on top could again put a significant additional burden on health systems.”
Ferguson and others at the meeting said that vaccinations in wealthy countries probably won’t mean an increase in coronavirus deaths, but a lack of protection from those shots and other factors could still mean a lot of people end up in hospital. . Meanwhile, immunity to the flu may also decrease in the general population after two winters with some cases, according to Arnaud Fontainet, an epidemiologist who advises the French government.
Concerns about protection from Covid prompted Israel – one of the first countries to begin vaccination at the beginning of the year – to start administering booster shots months earlier.
“It was very surprising to us initially to see that the vast majority of our severe cases were from fully vaccinated individuals,” said Ran Balisar of Israel’s Clalit Research Institute.
Britain last month began giving boosters to people 50 and older and other vulnerable groups. Giving a flu shot at the same appointment would make it easier for both patients and the healthcare service, said Rajeka Lazarus, consultant and principal investigator for infectious diseases and microbiology for the UK report, released on Thursday.
The study – involving researchers from the University of Bristol, and the University Hospital Bristol and the Weston NHS Foundation Trust – showed that side effects from receiving the vaccine at the same time were mild to moderate, with no negative effects on the immune response to either . Shot
This included 679 adult volunteers at National Health Service sites in England and Wales, known as Pfizer Inc.-BioNtech SE or AstraZeneca Inc. A second dose of vaccines was to be given. During two visits between April and June they were randomly divided into two groups to receive either different combinations of shots or a placebo in the opposite arms. The results have not yet been peer-reviewed.
According to Lazarus, the results of the British study provide a strong indication that people can safely receive their booster dose with the flu shot.
Ferguson presented data at the Paris conference showing that the shot from AstraZeneca and its partner, the University of Oxford, is less safe than Pfizer-BioNtech against the delta variant. Like Israel, he said the UK has seen “clear evidence of reduced protection” from both shots against mild disease as well as more serious consequences.
According to data from Ferguson, after two doses, the Astra shot provides 52% protection against mild symptomatic disease caused by Delta, compared to 90% for the Pfizer one.
Delta has turned SARS-CoV-2 into “one of the most spreading respiratory viruses we’ve ever seen,” with a reproduction rate of between 6 and 9, he said.
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