Flu vaccine: did your country hit its target?

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

January 20th, 2020

Gary Finnegan
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‘In 2009, Health Ministers from across the EU signed up to modest target: to vaccinate 75% of older people against flu. 10 years on, no EU country has kept its promise’

On 22 December 2009, health ministers from every EU Member State made a new commitment: to vaccinate at least three quarters of all residents aged 65 years and older. Now new data from Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, shows governments have failed.

Story highlights

  • 44% of people in Europe aged 65 years and older are vaccinated
  • No EU country has hit its target to vaccinate three out of four people in that risk group
  • There are no penalties for missing this target
  • Older people are just one key target group
  • WHO says pregnant women are the top priority, followed by health workers and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma and heart failure

 

No EU Member State has reached its 75% target and the rate across the EU is 44.3%. However, there are no political consequences: while there are penalties for breaching EU rules on carbon emissions, budget deficits or employment regulations, there is no sanction for missing vaccination targets.

The flu vaccination targets are considered to be ‘soft law’ rather than ‘hard law’, meaning they are not legally binding. Strict EU health targets are rare because health is a matter for national governments rather than a European responsibility.

It may have sounded like a modest goal. After all, reaching just three quarters of a key target group is still a long way short of protecting all at-risk citizens.

It would still leave 25% of older people unvaccinated. And the agreement reached at the 2009 European Council of health ministers ignored other key groups such as pregnant women and people with chronic conditions.

However, some countries were working from a very low base, with flu vaccination rates in single digits – hence the compromise agreement not to aim for universal vaccination in risk groups. There was a clear East-West divide: most EU members in the east had very low flu vaccination rates but boasted infant immunisation rates that were often the envy of their western neighbours.

Unhappy anniversary

Fast forward a decade and the East-West divide remains. Top of the table for 2018/2019 is the UK at 72.6%, followed by the Netherlands with 64%. These countries are the only ones to have ever crossed the 75% threshold – but have not sustained earlier progress.

And yet, they are the best of a bad bunch. Six countries (Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia) report flu vaccine uptake rates below 20%. A further six countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and Poland) did not report 2017/2018 data.

Modest improvements have also been recorded by Iceland, Ireland, Finland and Portugal but, overall, the picture is discouraging. 

As experts call on policy makers to focus on life-course immunisation, the dire flu stats show much work remains to be done. In its latest report on the 2019/2020 flu outbreak, the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC) says older people are at particularly risk from the strain of flu virus currently circulating.

While the ECDC guidelines follow the European Council’s target of reaching 75% of older people, the WHO lists pregnant women as the top priority for flu vaccination. Some countries in Europe are rolling out campaigns aimed at boosting flu vaccine uptake during pregnancy, but others are less active.

 

Despite the apparent lack of urgency in some European countries, flu remains a serious burden on individuals, communities and health systems. Each year, it affects 5-10% of the world’s population resulting in up to 650,000 deaths and 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness worldwide.

In Europe, flu puts significant pressure on hospital systems during the winter months and is responsible for thousands of ‘excess deaths’ i.e. people who would not have otherwise died at that time.

Dr Pasi Penttinen, ECDC Head of Influenza Disease Programme, acknowledged that improving vaccine uptake is the best way to address the annual epidemic. ‘Achieving high vaccination coverage rates for those particularly at risk of developing severe complications remains a serious public health challenge,’ he said.

‘The best way to prevent or minimize severe disease from influenza among vulnerable groups is timely vaccination, even though the effectiveness of the vaccine varies depending on the virus in circulation. Sufficient vaccination coverage also saves healthcare systems money in decreased consultation rates and hospitalisations.’

An event will be held in the European Parliament on 21 January to mark the 10-year anniversary of the European Council commitment to improve flu vaccination rates in older people. Find out more

 

Comments

  1. D

    D

    March 22nd, 2020

    Haha
    All the countries suffering covid 19 are flu vaccine uptakers…. The country’s that don’t use the e poisons and are nit invilved in tbe lies are very very very low on numbers now…. Evil profiteering,,, Stick your poisin shots

    • Gary Finnegan

      Gary Finnegan

      March 23rd, 2020

      First of all, it’s hard to believe that someone would celebrate Covid-19 outbreaks anywhere.
      The pandemic is global. Countries are at different stages of the outbreak, and testing for it with varying intensity (sometimes due to limited resources). But make no mistake, nobody is immune from the coronavirus.

      • Gareth Powell

        Gareth Powell

        March 28th, 2020

        Unless there is a big change in the current infection/death rate tables, there seems to be a strong possibility that countries carrying out high percentage flu vaccinations are suffering more.
        Surely something to be considered at least.

        • Gary Finnegan

          Gary Finnegan

          March 30th, 2020

          It may currently look as though COVID-19 rates are highest in developed countries, but that is very likely to be related to the capacity to test for the virus.
          There is no plausible way that flu vaccination rates are connected to coronavirus caseload.

          • Derek

            Derek

            April 11th, 2020

            There actually is a plausible way that vaccination rates are connected to coronavirus caseload

            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340182781_Consider_Influenza_Vaccine_Type_in_Patients_infected_with_COVID-19

            The mortality rate in Italy is 28 times that of Norway. This investigation suggests that in particular the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine is potentially eliciting a viral mismatch condition which is either worsening the condition of the patient whilst fighting COIVD19 or following the infection due to the presence of the Yamagata lineage influenza or a type B mismatch. An adjutant creates a stronger immune response and this type of response may be eliciting the cytokine storm conditions observed in COVID19 patients. [14].

          • Christine Kincaid

            Christine Kincaid

            April 15th, 2020

            How is there ‘no way ‘ that it is plausible?

          • Kaycie

            Kaycie

            April 18th, 2020

            Is it not true that if you’ve had the flu jab, you will test positive for covid19?

          • Gary Finnegan

            Gary Finnegan

            April 20th, 2020

            No. You will test positive if infected with the novel coronavirus.

          • Patrick A. Crawley

            Patrick A. Crawley

            April 24th, 2020

            Thank you for your input. Is this your personal opinion or is it a message on behalf of a vaccine manufacturer? And, you may know that the happiest moment in China for 99% of laowais is the departure lounge to fly anywhere else.
            ps China never was a Communist country. It is a Marxist-Leninist entity.

        • Christine Kincaid

          Christine Kincaid

          April 4th, 2020

          Yes but will they? I have been looking for vaccine uptake rates (vs countries with a ‘program’) for exactly this reason. Glad to know I am not the only one.

  2. christine kincaid

    christine kincaid

    April 6th, 2020

    Surely it is not escaping anybody that the 5 countries with the lowest vaccine uptake rates have some of the lowest COVID death rates in the world?

    Wake up! This needs to be known before anyone else gets a flu shot. Isn’t it better to sacrifice immunization policy & program than to pander to COVID?

    OMG … some of those bottom 5 countries have tested twice as many people as the US has & their death rates are 1/100th of ours!

    • Gary Finnegan

      Gary Finnegan

      April 7th, 2020

      Those that roll out testing fastest and widest find the highest number of cases.
      For example, African countries appear to have low number of cases. This is highly unlikely, unfortunately.

      • Gareth Powell

        Gareth Powell

        April 8th, 2020

        Iran is probably biggest uptaker of flu vaccinations in Middle East, which would explain their high position on the infection/ death rate tables.?
        Difficult to believe these tables/facts, are being ignored on the theory that cases in Africa, India, Pakistan etc, are not being fully reported.
        Conclusion, see Jeremiah 5:21

        • Hi

          Hi

          April 17th, 2020

          At least it needs to be explored. There has been no mention of a possible link by medical experts and as far as I know has never been questioned. This alone worries me! Surely patient data is analysed to determine whether the patient was administered an influenza vaccine especially the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine. It could explain the awful situation in care homes where the residents have , no doubt , been administered the trivalent vaccine. What about all those working in our hospitals – surely they have all received influenza vaccine!! If this theory proved correct imagine the repercussions! Perhaps the Chinese knew of this lethal cocktail of Covid-19 and the adjuvanted vaccine and stopped giving this strain of vaccine – hence the low death toll and sudden return to normality!!!

      • Gareth Powell

        Gareth Powell

        April 15th, 2020

        Sincerely hope the indicators are wrong, Southern Hemispheres beginning flu vaccination this month.
        Let’s hope their low rates continue through July and August.

  3. Ray Eade

    Ray Eade

    April 17th, 2020

    At least it needs to be explored. There has been no mention of a possible link by medical experts and as far as I know has never been questioned. This alone worries me! Surely patient data is analysed to determine whether the patient was administered an influenza vaccine especially the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine. It could explain the awful situation in care homes where the residents have , no doubt , been administered the trivalent vaccine. What about all those working in our hospitals – surely they have all received influenza vaccine!! If this theory proved correct imagine the repercussions! Perhaps the Chinese knew of this lethal cocktail of Covid-19 and the adjuvanted vaccine and stopped giving this strain of vaccine – hence the low death toll and sudden return to normality!!!

  4. Alex Biss

    Alex Biss

    April 23rd, 2020

    @Gary Finnegan
    Re: “Those that roll out testing fastest and widest find the highest number of cases.”

    1. If you look at the death rate in absolute numbers per 1 million of population (rather than as a proportion of identified cases) then the relationship between the influenza vaccination rate and Covid-19 deaths still holds for Europe. See Chart (updated 20 April) – https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eej1HVTXr8sW7ndLItackL3mNMI3MjWu/view?usp=sharing

    2. A mechanism by which a flu jab could cause a bad reaction to Covid-19 infection has been discussed in the medical community – it’s not that fantastic (see New Scientist article https://www.newscientist.com/article/2237259-why-dont-children-seem-to-get-very-ill-from-the-coronavirus/).

    The link between the influenza vaccination and Covid-19 patient outcome is something that needs urgent investigation. Maybe there’s nothing in it – it could be pure coincidence explained away by a number of complicating factors – but it needs to be looked at. Could it even be a trivalent/quadrivalent issue as Sean McMahon suggests? https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340182781_Consider_Influenza_Vaccine_Type_in_Patients_infected_with_COVID-19?channel=doi&linkId=5e7cabfca6fdcc139c04d069&showFulltext=true

    @Gary Finnegan – do you know of any papers that have already investigated the possibility of a connection? Or are you aware of any facts that fundamentally undermine the argument? It would be good to have this the notion proved wrong and put-to-bed. I know many people who have the flu vaccine each year and it would be useful information for them as well as those who have already had the vaccine this season and who may need to shield themselves more carefully.

    • Bob Mortimer

      Bob Mortimer

      May 17th, 2020

      Hi Alex – have you updated your chart with the latest data re reported death rates up to 15 May? The correlation between over 65s flu vaccination rates and Covid mortality in EU countries might be much stronger now.

  5. Alex Biss

    Alex Biss

    April 27th, 2020

    Having done some quick stats, I think I’ve changed my mind re any link between the influenza vaccine and Covid-19 patient outcomes. Whilst vaccination rate vs deaths per million appears a strong relationship at first glance (r = 0.59, p = 0.001), I’ve Iooked at alternative models that could explain the variation equally as well or better.

    For example, a multiple regression model that takes into account (for each European country), i) the date a coronavirus case was first reported and ii) the living density (see https://www.citymetric.com/fabric/these-maps-reveal-truth-about-population-density-across-europe-3625) explains about 60% of deaths and is highly significant (p = 0.000). Adding the vaccination rate increases the model’s explanatory power by only 4 percent and vaccination rates then become an insignificant variable (p = 0.115).

    See https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ynG7pqA9B7Mz7mjcwK-Lp1pA-oWc13B6/view?usp=sharing

    • Gary Finnegan

      Gary Finnegan

      April 27th, 2020

      Thanks for taking the time to do this Alex.

      • Ray Eade

        Ray Eade

        April 29th, 2020

        Alex you are being driven by hard statistics and missing the point. Rather than flu vaccine in general it is the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine administered to the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions which appears to be resulting in poor outcomes in Civic 19 patients. This would explain the situation in care/ nursing homes. I have yet to see any research that disproves the link between civic 19 and the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine.
        I also note that Gary Finnegan is quick to respond when a post agrees with his views but but can be quite dismissive/ condescending when others suggest something he is clearly uncomfortable with e.g . a link between Covid-19 and the flu jab!!

        • Liz Moss

          Liz Moss

          April 29th, 2020

          I came to this because my husband showed me, weeks ago, a US Military report that concluded the flu vaccine was indicated in higher incidents of coronavirus. I didn’t pay much attention at the time.

          My attention was more diverted by what would happen in the developing world when C19 reached them. High population densities, much lower per capita hospital beds. Scary.

          Yet, luckily, it hasn’t happened that the death rates have reached that of European countries. I don’t think it can be explained by the fact they introduced social distancing earlier. There has to be something else influencing the death rates.

          A further web search found an article in the BMI that studied the effect of the flu vaccine on children. More susceptible to respiratory viruses.

          • Gary Finnegan

            Gary Finnegan

            April 30th, 2020

            Hi Liz,
            Could you add links to the two papers you refer to please?

        • Gary Finnegan

          Gary Finnegan

          April 30th, 2020

          Hi Ray,
          I hadn’t intended to be dismissive to anyone. Perhaps I was a bit exasperated with one of the early posts (not yours) which appeared to celebrate what the poster perceived as bad news about vaccines.
          Could you elaborate on your specific point about the trivalent vaccine for over 65s with underlying health conditions? If possible, please point us towards a relevant paper/source.

          • Ray Eade

            Ray Eade

            April 30th, 2020

            Hi Gary. With regards the link between Covid-19 and the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine can I refer you back to the link that Derek posted on 10 the April. Sean Mc Manon in his report quotes an article written by Wendy Barclay from the Imperial College of Medicine, London. In addition he adds a link which suggests the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine is potentially eliciting a viral mismatch condition which is worsening he condition of the Covid-19 patients. As far as I know the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine is the chosen vaccine for the over 65s in the UK. It just seems logical that there is a link here that cannot be overlooked. Although Sean’s report was written over a month ago the stats are suggesting that he was right. I was hoping that you could point out some relevant paper/ sources that prove the theory wrong. The links you put forward to Liz are only suggesting that the flu vaccine is not causing Covid19. No one is suggesting that this is the case.
            The only countries experiencing high death rates are those who have adopted the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine. Germany have a very low death rate but Sean Mc Mahon suggests this could be because they have adopted the Quadrivalent vaccine. Our medical experts have NEVER been questioned with this theory. It’s so important to the present situation I cannot understand why it has not been considered. ( Or are we not supposed to know!!!).

  6. Liz Moss

    Liz Moss

    April 29th, 2020

    * BMJ*

  7. Liz Moss

    Liz Moss

    April 29th, 2020

    Hmm now just seen this on Reuters ‘ False claim: The flu vaccine causes the new coronavirus’

    pedantic wording

    I don’t think anyone would think the flu vaccine CAUSES C19.

    It’s about it’s effect on the immune system when infected with C19

  8. Liz Moss

    Liz Moss

    April 30th, 2020

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31607599

    Ok, I’m not remotely scientifically trained, just concerned the difference between national death rates can’t only be attributed to social distancing, contact tracing.

    “Receipt of influenza vaccination was not associated with virus interference among our population. Examining virus interference by specific respiratory viruses showed mixed results. Vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with coronavirus and human metapneumovirus; however, significant protection with vaccination was associated not only with most influenza viruses, but also parainfluenza, RSV, and non-influenza virus coinfections.”

    This is the bit that worries me ‘Vaccine derived virus interference was significantly associated with coronavirus and human metapneumovirus’

    I actually hope this is not the case as the repercussions could be worse. People not getting their children vaccinated against mumps, measles and rubella etc

    • Ray Eade

      Ray Eade

      May 1st, 2020

      Liz. Look back at the link to Sean Mc Mahon’s theory in Derek’s post on 10th April. Read the full report, especially where it supports the viral interference. Although Sean’s report was written a month ago the current stats are backing him up 100%. There is a huge cover up here believe me !!😨

  9. Gary Finnegan

    Gary Finnegan

    May 1st, 2020

    Another fact-checking site put some of the theories shared here to researchers. Might be of interest to some https://healthfeedback.org/claimreview/claim-that-flu-vaccine-increases-coronavirus-infection-is-unsupported-misinterprets-scientific-studies/

    However, it will surely take more time and data to learn all we need to know about this new coronavirus and how/why it affects some people more than others (e.g. older people but not younger people) and why outcomes are better in Germany than the UK, for example.

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