According to the President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the effectiveness of the flu vaccines for the upcoming season can hardly be estimated.

"The database on which the vaccine was developed is not as good as the database of previous years," said Lothar Wieler at the start of the annual meeting of the German Society for Hygiene and Microbiology (DGHM) on Sunday in Berlin.

Different virus variants circulate each influenza season, so vaccines must be adjusted annually. It is based on a worldwide network of monitoring centers with which the flu epidemic around the world is monitored and analyzed. Because of the corona pandemic, on the one hand, part of this system collapsed, said Wieler. On the other hand, there have been far fewer cases of influenza in the course of the protective measures, which also makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the flu strains that are most popular this season.

For Germany, the RKI recorded what is probably the weakest flu season in decades with only a few hundred cases confirmed in the laboratory; in the previous year there were more than 180,000 cases.

According to the definition of the Working Group Influenza (AGI) at the RKI, not even the criteria for the beginning of a flu epidemic were met, as it was said.

“There has been no flu epidemic at all this season.” Most other countries in the northern hemisphere were also spared the wave.

Fears of more respiratory infections in winter again

The reason for the absence were the Corona measures in force in many places, such as minimum distances, masks, home office regulations and school closings. According to Wieler, it is not yet possible to estimate whether the measures, which have since been significantly reduced, will lead to a strong flu epidemic this year. "If we get an influenza wave, it comes on top of the fourth corona wave." The hospitals were already preparing for this scenario.

According to the RKI President, there is already an increase in the number of cases recorded for other respiratory infections such as RSV.

In general, it is to be feared that there will be significantly more respiratory infections again this autumn and winter, with a corresponding burden on hospitals.

In addition to the corona situation, that is also a good reason to maintain protective measures such as wearing a mask throughout the winter.

The Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) released the first flu vaccines for autumn and winter at the beginning of September.

The federal institute responsible for vaccines had tested the first 10.7 million doses for the German market.

It's all about quality control, not effectiveness.

According to the PEI, a total of nine vaccines against influenza are available this year.