‘It’s so frustrating to see people suffering and dying from an infection which is avoidable and preventable.’ Dr Bram Palache is a mild-manner person but his pulse quickens when someone mentions flu.
‘What drives me crazy is that the influenza story, in principle, is extremely simple. We know there is a serious disease, it occurs every year, and we have safe and effective vaccines.’
After 40 years in the field of influenza vaccinology, Dr Palache has seen seasonal flu vaccine campaigns come and go. Every year, influenza infections cause avoidable deaths and contribute to the winter peak in hospitalisations.
‘The more people who are vaccinated and protected, the less other people are vulnerable to getting influenza infections,’ he says, with visible exasperation.
Despite data showing that vaccination can reduce the overall burden of flu and is particularly valuable in at-risk groups – such as older people, pregnant women, health workers and people with chronic diseases – convincing people to be vaccinated remains a challenge.
Dr Palache co-founded the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza (ESWI) and has worked as a researcher and expert for companies and trade associations. He has spoken at conferences, engaged with policymakers and worked with healthcare professionals. But this year, he decided to try something else: embracing the use of video to tell his story online.
The video conveys Dr Palache’s emotional commitment to the cause and swiftly sets out the case for flu vaccination. ‘After so many years in this field, this is my attempt to make a difference.’
It also offers a practical step that viewers can take to ensure they protect themselves again flu next season. ‘Just take your diary,’ he advises. ‘Put a date in your diary to get your flu jab. Fully stop. It’s as simple as that – and would have a tremendous positive effect on personal health and on public health and society.’