Dr. Serge Gradstein’s report on the importance of vaccination against Influenza during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic
Many of us, including health professionals, have observed a sharp decrease in the incidence of cases of Influenza during the last 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic. This observation is real and is a consequence of the many general protection measures installed to fight the pandemic.
Like the Coronaviruses, Influenza viruses are airborne and propagated in similar ways. So the utilization of masks, frequent hand washings and the avoidance of crowded places have had a clear impact on the propagation of both viruses. Even more so being the fact that children have been staying at home not in attending in-person school.
The measures directed to reduce the propagation of the viruses among children have had a greater impact on the propagation of the Influenza viruses than on the Coronaviruses; it is known that children are infected by Influenza in a greater proportion than adults and shed the virus more than adults when infected which is apparently less true for Coronaviruses.
Now that the preventive measures are about to be loosened significantly, and that the schools and kindergarten are about to reopen, it is expected to see a sharp increase in the circulation of viruses including the Influenza viruses.
In relation to this expected wave of Influenza, there are three important aspects that should worry us:
1) The potential combination of an infection with 2 viruses that can attack the respiratory system is to be dreaded. Such an eventuality could enlarge the proportion of individuals suffering from a severe disease and complications compared to what we have seen during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Even if we do not contract those two infections simultaneously, even getting them one after the other increases the potential for complications and severe disease.
2) Since the symptoms of those two respiratory diseases can be similar, unnecessary confusion can occur at the onset of a respiratory infection until it is clear whether it is Influenza, COVID-19 or both. Being vaccinated does not cancel totally this confusion, but can diminish it.
3) On a larger scale than the individual risk of contracting the two infections, we have to understand that adding the burden of a partly preventable additional disease could drive an already overwhelmed health care system, especially at the level of the Intensive Care Units to saturation and even catastrophic failure. This concerns us all as potential users of those facilities, with any kind of severe medical condition unrelated to those two viral diseases. If there are no available beds nor personnel, it stands as well for trauma, heart conditions, strokes etc…
Within a few weeks, like every year, a new seasonal Influenza vaccine will be available for all. It is recommended to get a Flu vaccine every year but this year more than ever is it important for the sake of our family and our community.