Pharmacists are worried, caregivers are worried. “The data show a very significant delay in influenza vaccination,” noted a statement from the Uspo (Union of Community Pharmacy Unions) on Monday, which fears a “particularly intense” flu epidemic this winter. This would not at all help the situation in hospitals, already faced with the constant pressure of Covid-19 and a large-scale bronchiolitis epidemic. Why are the French shunning the flu vaccine this year? 20 minutes make the point.

What about the flu vaccination?

The vaccination campaign started on October 18. As of November 18, just over seven million doses had been distributed, compared to 8.6 million last year at the same time. That is 18.3% less, according to data collected from 14,000 of the 20,000 French pharmacies and published by the company IQVIA, a specialist in health data, on its opendata platform. “More than 1.5 million doses not administered, it is a significant delay that must be caught up immediately before it is too late”, notes Pierre-Olivier Variot, the president of the Uspo. Because, he recalls, the vaccine takes “three weeks to be fully effective”. However, the flu epidemic has already set foot in the door, ready to invade all of France, as this article details:

The flu will be here earlier this year, but above all stronger. The flu will be “virulent”, warned the Minister of Health, François Braun, guest on Sunday of the Grand Jury LCI-RTL-Le Figaro. “With the Covid-19 epidemic, confinements and the wearing of masks, there was no epidemic for two years. Our immunity is therefore very weak against this virus, ”explains Pierre-Olivier Variot.

Why are the French vaccinated less this year?

Admittedly, 40% of French people are suspicious of vaccines, which makes us world champions in this area. But regarding this particular flu campaign, Pierre-Olivier Variot observes three factors unfortunately combined to explain the decline in vaccination. First of all, a certain “weariness” with vaccination. Those over 60 and the most fragile are called upon to be vaccinated twice this year: the flu and a second anti-Covid booster dose. And there is currently no combined vaccine against the two viruses.

The weather also played a big role. Needless to say, October 2022 was the hottest month on record. However, “when the weather is nice, people don’t have the head to go get vaccinated”, notes Pierre-Olivier Variot. Finally, notes the pharmacist, too much time passes between the receipt of the vaccination slips by the priority public and the moment when they can be vaccinated: “They were sent in early or mid-September. However, we only started the campaign on October 18th. In the meantime, they had been put away and forgotten. Pierre-Olivier Variot therefore pleads for an earlier start of vaccination.

How to speed up the vaccination campaign?

If all health professionals are agitated around this question of vaccination against influenza, it is because this virus affects between two and eight million people each year in France and kills between 10,000 and 15,000 people. François Braun assured that the health system will be able to “support the arrival of the flu if everyone does their part (and) if the most fragile people get vaccinated”.

The only solution for Pierre-Olivier Variot, that “the authorities set up a major communication campaign” like what was done for the Covid-19. Especially since in addition to the overload of hospitals, the flu epidemic could aggravate the shortage of antibiotics, fears Pierre-Olivier Variot, “some doctors prescribing antibiotics in the event of infection, without knowing if it is is a virus or bacteria. »

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