In the fall of 2020, the situation was more precarious than we imagined. We did not have vaccines for COVID, the third wave of the disease was beginning to be seen in the Health reports and the flu threatened to give the finishing touch to a health system that had been working beyond its possibilities for many months. Fortunately, the masks, social distance and the rest of the measures that were put in place managed to contain the latter and made the flu go away for all practical purposes.
No one expects that to happen again. And when I say “no one” I think precisely of the central government that, although already said that it is not going to withdraw the mandatory nature of the mask Over the next six months, he has been looking for strategies for weeks to achieve vaccine coverage rates close to those recommended by the WHO.
Many hopes, but also many doubts
And it is precisely that which makes this vaccination campaign something full of unknowns. It is enough to remember that, according to the WHO, coverage of groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and health personnel should be 75%. But, in 2019, only two communities managed to vaccinate more than 60% of those over 65: La Rioja (64.6%) and Castilla y León (61.1%). We also did not get good figures in pregnant women (the community with the highest vaccination rate was Cantabria with 54.4%) and if we look at the percentages of health personnel we would see that they were around 30%.
From the Ministry of Health they recognize that it is not clear what will happen now. Above all, because the third dose of the coronavirus is already here. And the generalized politics in the country (Madrid, Andalusia, Basque Country O Navarra) is to use the deployment of resources of the flu campaign to put a souvenir of the coronavirus vaccine in, at least, those over 75 years old.
Can you get vaccinated against flu and coronavirus at the same time? Although it is true that the available evidence on how both vaccines interact is small (among other things, because last year the incidence of influenza was at historic lows), what we have suggests that it can. For example, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and, especially, its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) are committed to double vaccination. Of course, when in doubt, they recommend immunizing before COVID because the danger is greater.
The hope is that the COVID vaccination (the largest and most successful public health intervention in decades) has changed the public’s view of vaccination campaigns and this year, at last, better vaccine coverage is achieved. However, it is difficult to make predictions. In that sense the next few months are going to be a good measure of how the pandemic has (or not) changed the way we take public health and the strategies of governments to work with it.
Image | Mat Napo