Will Switzerland be able to meet demand for the flu vaccine?
With the onset of cooler weather and the increase in coronavirus infections, the demand for the flu shot in Switzerland is higher this year than previously. But will there be enough doses for everyone who wants them?
Usually, Switzerland stocks up to 1.2 million doses of influenza vaccine for a population of 8.5 million This year, however the number of ordered doses has doubled.
The reason is the increase in demand, driven by the current Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
While scientists believe an influenza vaccine is unlikely to protect against the coronavirus, the idea is to avoid co-infection of both diseases simultaneously. A double infection could have disastrous consequences, increasing death rates, especially among the elderly and other susceptible people.
Flu vaccine would prevent the overload of the health system, which is currently a huge concern, as many Swiss hospitals are already at their full capacity.
According to Christoph Berger, president of the Federal Commission for Vaccination Issues, "if the Covid-19 and flu viruses circulate at the same time, the health system will be saturated quite quickly, as the number of medical consultations, emergencies, and hospital stays increases”.
But as more people get vaccinated against the flu, “we will be able to maintain our health system”, he added.
Given the higher demand, will there be enough vaccines for everyone who wants them?
"For the moment, there is no risk of a general shortage", FOPH spokesperson told RTS public broadcaster, though local shortages can occur.
As a precaution, cantons will prioritise their stock of vaccines.
"The goal is above all to vaccinate people at risk, and also healthcare staff, so there is less absenteeism due to the flu and Covid", said Fribourg’s cantonal doctor Thomas Plattner.
Flu season in Northern Hemisphere typically peaks between December and March, although it could last longer.
Vaccines are usually administered in Switzerland starting in November and it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop.