Updated Wednesday,8November2023 - 14:43

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On average, influenza causes 28,000 hospitalisations each year in Spain. In the 2017-2018 season, there were up to 15,000 deaths attributable to this disease. In the case of childhood influenza, in children under 5 years of age, influenza causes 58,640 consultations in Primary Care and 4,239 hospital admissions each year. And two out of three hospitalizations occur among healthy children. Covid-19 – let's not forget – was the most frequent cause of death in 2022, with 31,559 people dying, 96% of them over 60 years of age. On the other hand, pneumonia in adults requires 40% of hospitalizations.

These are shocking data, which alarm and frighten, but which can be changed thanks to vaccines, which help prevent all these respiratory diseases. With the campaign "The best plan for this winter", the Spanish Association of Vaccinology (AEV) encourages people aged 60 and over and the vulnerable population to get vaccinated against flu and Covid-19, and to review their vaccination against pneumonia. It is also aimed at parents of children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years, for whom influenza vaccination is recommended for the first time.

For the undecided

This call comes a few weeks after the start of the vaccination campaign to raise awareness among the undecided, those who still have doubts and have not taken the step. "We want to address those people aged 60 and over, vulnerable groups, and parents of children between the ages of six months and four who are still reluctant. The people who come to be vaccinated during the first days go alone, there is no need for anyone to convince them, but those who have doubts must be given all the available information," they point out from the AEV.

The campaign "The best plan for this winter" has been born with the purpose that respiratory infections do not ruin our winter or to be able to share time with our loved ones, one of the greatest gifts of life, although it is not always possible. Our state of health conditions our ability to carry out activities, meet with our loved ones and enjoy quality leisure. "Although it may not seem like it, people start to have more risks as we get older, even though we look young and healthy. Just as we exercise to stay fit, we must get vaccinated to keep our immune system strong. We have, in vaccines, the best chance to protect ourselves. Getting vaccinated is a healthy lifestyle habit," explains Jaime Pérez, president of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology.

Prevention, the best protection

The vaccine therefore becomes the best weapon to prevent both severe cases and deaths, as it halves the risk of flu hospitalizations in adults, including those over 65, and prevents about 39% of deaths. If we are talking about children under five years of age, the AEV warns that "the burden of influenza disease is very high" and recalls that in 2019 there were a higher number of hospitalisations per inhabitant in children under 5 years of age than in people aged 65 or over. "In other countries, flu vaccination coverage in children does not usually exceed 60%. This is the first year that the flu vaccination of these children is included in the calendar and we have to try to ensure that this coverage is good," says Jaime Pérez.

Given that more than 40% of pneumonias in adults require hospitalization, the AEV specifically calls on those aged 60-65 to review their pneumococcal vaccination status. "Although it varies depending on the autonomous community, in general, all people over 60-65 years of age have to have this vaccine. And even if they are vaccinated, they may have to update their vaccination based on the recommendations in place in their community, so we encourage them to check with their health center," explains the president of the scientific society.

Apart from the positive effects that vaccines have on those who choose to get them, they also benefit all of us, including the health system itself. "Epidemic diseases such as influenza, Covid-19 or pneumonia occur in epidemic form, during a specific period of the year, which causes the overload of health systems. An overloaded health system provides worse care for its patients, reduces the time it dedicates to each person, which can be transferred to the quality of care," says Jaime Pérez, who also appeals to family responsibility. "It is advisable to make sure that our elderly are vaccinated for their sake, and also for ours. Their health is also the health of those who care for them."

When, where and how?

Vaccination against Covid-19 and flu usually runs from October to the end of the quarter, although it is ideal to get vaccinated between October and November. In the case of the pneumococcal vaccine, it can be administered year-round, although illnesses caused by this bacterium are more common during the winter.

Those interested in administering the different vaccines should check with their health centre or vaccination clinic about the procedure, as it varies depending on each autonomous community. In some cases, appointments can be requested online, but in others it has been possible to set up vaccination points and even campaigns in schools. For this reason, the AEV encourages the population to make an appointment with their usual health centre or vaccination point and find out more.

People with the indication for double vaccination (flu and Covid-19) can co-administer both vaccines without problem. "You put an injection in each arm, with different needles and syringes. And those who also have to be vaccinated against pneumococcus, can receive two injections in one arm and one in the other, if necessary," the scientific society clarifies. And they also clarify that this co-administration of the two or three vaccines does not cause protection to decrease or increase the side effects that these three vaccines share, such as pain at the injection site, swelling in the arm and low-grade fever, in some cases.

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