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Last year, at this time, according to the indicators of the Gripometer, there were 3% of people over 65 years of age immunized, 3.4% more also in the group between 60 and 64 years of age and 0.8% more in the general population between 18 and 59 years of age. Thus, the overall percentages corresponding to the latest figure adjusted to the first half of December correspond to 63%, 36.9% and 9.9% respectively.

"It may have gone up a little bit from December 17 until today. In Murcia we have achieved 1.5% more," explains Jaime Jesús Pérez, president of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology (AEV) and deputy director of Public Health of the Ministry of Health of the aforementioned region. "We are sure that we are going to increase those percentages, because a lot has happened at Christmas and the increase in cases has led people to get immunized," he adds.

For this reason, many communities have opened vaccination to the entire population. In some of them, prior appointment is still required, such as Aragon. In others, it is not necessary, such as the Valencian Community, Andalusia, Extremadura, Asturias, the Canary Islands and Catalonia. "The idea is for people to get vaccinated, because there is still time to create immunity in their body," explains Pérez. Two weeks is the time it takes for the vaccine to 'take effect'.

As immunization expands, there is a widespread perception that we have not done our homework against the virus this year. And that's due to two factors: the late start of the vaccination campaign and the weather.

As for the latter, there is an explanation for climate change. "If there are fewer people vaccinated, we can also think that it has been due to the lower perception of risk," argues Francisco Sanz Herrero, secretary of the Tuberculosis and Respiratory Infections Area of the Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery (Separ).

Estimated Vaccination at 65

The pulmonologist explains that "in November with 20 degrees Celsius, the population does not see the risk of a winter virus". This year's vaccination campaigns began to be advertised at the end of September with a view to starting in October. It should be recalled that it was sought to advance dates due to the peak of Covid respiratory infections, since in the same act of vaccination the latest strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the flu virus is immunized.

"But it could not start until October 16 because the updated Covid vaccines set by the international institutions (EMA, FDA and WHO) did not arrive. The intention was to co-vaccinate against coronavirus and influenza," says Pérez.

Estimated Vaccination at 60

In those months, the weather conditions did not encourage the population to get vaccinated and the Autonomous Communities launched vaccination campaigns to 'capture' the target population: those over 60 years of age, children under six years of age and the population at risk due to their associated pathological conditions. According to the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet), these have entered the top of the podium of warmest months in all of Spain since records began.

Estimated Vaccination at 18

José Polo, president of the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians (Semergen), recalls that a prior call should have been made to increase vaccination coverage against respiratory viruses such as the flu or Covid. "We're at percentages around 60% right now." But he advocates increasing it, because "a greater number of vaccinated people would significantly hinder the expansion and dimensions of the epidemic," he explains.

Daniel López Acuña, epidemiologist and former director of Health Action at the World Health Organization (WHO), also appeals to the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu: "You have to vaccinate for flu and covid. This year we have low vaccination rates compared to last year."

The Covid pandemic left us with one good thing, which was awareness to get vaccinated against the flu. "It is true that we are a little worse, but if we remember and go back to before Covid, we are much better," explains the president of the AEV. In this sense, Pérez recalls that "we used to lament that we barely reached 60% in people over 65 years of age, it was always around 50%".

The president of the AEV is confident that the desired rates will be reached. "We started late, but we are going to reach 70% of the population covered." In his opinion, these weeks are key to motivating the population to get vaccinated.

Know the flu vaccination data

Speaking of data on rates and how to compile them such as infection registries, the WHO epidemiologist indicates that "some autonomous communities do publish them. I believe that the Ministry of Health should republish a weekly report on vaccination coverage. It would give many clues and help monitor, as well as speed up vaccination. This was stopped a long time ago and has not been resumed. I am in favour of this being done and I will be speaking out publicly in this regard in the coming days. What is not measured, does not exist and is forgotten."

What data do you handle? "They come from autonomous communities, estimates and academics, but the consolidated state figure is needed, which would be more than desirable. We know that influenza vaccination in children is around 35%, very low," explains Acuña.

Although the president of the AEV clarifies that "the average will be 40%. This is the first year that we have carried out a national campaign for children under the age of six. Last year, the pioneers were Andalusia, Galicia and Murcia."

  • Vaccines
  • Influenza
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Infectious diseases