Up to 1,500 people die in Switzerland every year from the flu – i.e. the influenza virus. 90 percent of them are over 65 years old. Vaccinating against flu can protect, says Christoph Berger, pediatrician and infectiologist at Zurich University Hospital.
Berger, who is also President of the Federal Commission on Vaccination Issues (Ekif), sees an opportunity to make vaccinations even more effective. Older people and chronically ill people in particular become seriously ill with flu. These showed a less good response to a flu vaccination than younger, healthy people, says Berger.
When we have children […] If we were also vaccinated against the flu, then we would have the effect that fewer elderly and chronically ill people would get the flu and become seriously ill.
According to Berger, children also get sick with influenza, but not as seriously as older, sick people. «When we have children […] If we were to also vaccinate against the flu, then we would have the effect that fewer older and chronically ill people would become seriously ill with the flu,” says Berger.
Vaccinating to protect other people: essentially a vaccination protection provided by a third party. This is already possible with HPV infections and whooping cough. The latter is dangerous for newborns and small infants, explains Berger. But these cannot yet be vaccinated. “But we can vaccinate pregnant women and expectant fathers, then this child will be protected throughout this sensitive phase.”
Health insurance companies are cautious
However, in the case of flu and whooping cough, health insurance companies do not pay for third-party vaccinations. That’s why the Vaccination Commission is now encouraging a rethink. Berger: “It is a concern of the Federal Commission for Vaccination Issues to create the basis for vaccinations for indirect protection to also receive cost coverage.” This is important because, depending on the vaccination and the people at risk, this approach is needed in order to protect those most at risk – and therefore the entire population.
The Federal Office of Public Health was unable to say anything to SRF today about the vaccination commission’s proposal and the assumption of costs. There is no need to rush, as flu vaccinations for children to protect the elderly are not planned for this winter or the next.