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The Flu Season Is Upon Us, Who Should Get The Vaccine?

As the mornings are getting mistier and the kids start swapping coughs and colds at school, our thoughts are already turning to the winter flu season – and how to avoid it.  I have had a number of inquiries from friends, colleagues and course participants in the past few days about what exactly are the current recommendations for Switzerland.

Here is a summary of who should be getting vaccinated…and why.  Of course, these guidelines may evolve as the WHO and Swiss Federal Office of Public Health watch the patterns of infection, so keep an eye on this first website (in English).  It’s an interesting website to click around on to get some general information on the flu – there is even an online test you can take to see if you are recommended for the vaccine: http://www.vaccinateagainsttheflu.ch/en-us/risikogruppen.html

WHO recommends annual vaccination for (in order of priority):

  • Nursing-home residents (the elderly or disabled)
  • People with chronic medical conditions
  • Elderly individuals
  • Other groups such as pregnant women, health care workers, those with essential functions in society, as well aschildren from ages six months to two years

For more information, take a look at: http://www.who.int/influenza/vaccines/use/en/

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health recommends the seasonal influenza vaccination for the following groups:

A) Persons with an elevated risk of flu complications

  • Persons over 65 years of age
  • Persons (over 6 months of age) with one of the following chronic conditions: heart disease; pulmonary disease (e.g. bronchial asthma); metabolic disorders affecting heart, pulmonary or kidney function (e.g. diabetes or obesity [BMI ? 40]); neurological (e.g. Parkinson, cerebrovascular disease) or musculoskeletal conditions affecting heart, pulmonary or kidney function; liver disease; renal insufficiency; absent or dysfunctional spleen (including haemoglobinopathy); immune deficiency (e.g. HIV, cancer)
  • Pregnant women from the 2nd trimester on and women who have delivered within the previous 4 weeks
  • Preterm babies (born before the 33rd week or with a birth weight below 1,500 g) over 6 months of age for the first two winters after birth
  • Patients in nursing homes or institutions for the chronically ill

B) Persons who, in their family or through their personal or professional activities*, are in regular contact with:

  • Persons in category A
  • Infants under 6 months of age (whose risk of complications is elevated and who cannot be vaccinated due to their young age)

Vaccination is further recommended specifically for all medical and health-care personnel, all persons working in the paramedical field, employees of nurseries and day-care centres as well as old-age and nursing homes, including students and trainees.

C) Persons who are in professional contact with poultry, wild birds or pigs (to minimise the risk of developing a new virus through reassortment).

Influenza vaccination may also be considered for all persons wishing, for personal or professional reasons, to decrease their risk of contracting the flu.
For more information, take a look at http://www.bag.admin.ch/influenza/01118/index.html?lang=fr

Seven reasons why you should get vaccinated

  • Stay one step ahead of the influenza virus. The vaccine provides the body with protective antibodies.
  • Protect yourself and others. The vaccine protects the majority of vaccinated people from the flu and its effects. It also reduces transmission of the virus to others.
  • Reduce the risk of serious complications. Yearly vaccination prevents an exacerbated progression of the disease and the need for emergency care particularly amongst members of risk groups.
  • Avoid long days spent in bed or even in hospital. Convalescence from the flu may last one to two weeks or longer. Hospitalisation often becomes necessary in cases of such serious complications as pneumonia.
  • The flu vaccine is cheaper than the flu. Vaccination helps prevent costly hospitalisations and reduce productivity loss due to illness.
  • Enjoy your life. Why forgo cultural events and family functions or avoid public transport, shopping centres, etc. in the winter months? Vaccination reduces the risk of contracting the flu.
  • Vaccination is a simple, quick and inexpensive means of prevention. Health insurance will cover the costs of the vaccination for persons with an elevated risk of complications, provided the deductible has already been met. On National Flu Vaccination Day, many doctors’ surgeries will offer vaccinations for all without appointment for a low flat fee. Often, the employer will cover the cost of vaccination as well, especially in the health care field.

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