As of today, the flu shot can be obtained again. That is anything but a superfluous luxury, because many virologists expect an extra serious flu wave. ‘Certainly because there has been no flu wave in the past year,’ says physician-epidemiologist Ge Donker.
According to Donker, there is not really a serious flu virus in circulation in the Netherlands yet. ‘For most people, this is still just a cold. There are now mainly rhinoviruses going around.’ Donker does think that it is possible that we will have to deal with a severe flu wave. ‘We are increasingly on our way to ‘normal normal’, without distance and mouth caps. Then the chance is much greater, and certainly because there was no flu wave last year.’
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In view of the flu, but also the increasing number of corona infections, according to Donker, it would not be wrong to keep physical contact between people to a minimum. ‘That has advantages for infectious diseases, and certainly for high-risk groups.’
Those risk groups will be additionally vaccinated against the flu this year. For example, pregnant women and obese people. Donker: ‘This has been well thought out. Those groups are still extra vulnerable and end up in the ICU more often, which is still partly occupied by covid patients. So I think that’s a smart move.’
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There are experts who advocate giving children a flu shot as well. Donker cannot say for sure whether that step would relieve care in the event of a severe flu wave. ‘Of course there are a number of children who end up in hospital, but relatively few. The risk is that you vaccinate an entire group that does not have complications from the flu as often. And you want to give children the opportunity to build up their own resistance.’
Moreover, with a flu shot you cannot be sure that you are completely protected against the virus. ‘In favorable cases it provides 70 percent protection, and sometimes it is 50 percent. That changes a bit every year. In the Netherlands, only a quarter of the people are vaccinated, but that makes a difference. Certainly for vulnerable children, for example, who you expect to develop complications.’