Charting the course of the pandemic over the next several months will likely involve a more traditional winter nuisance: the flu.
As countries from Italy to Canada lift restrictions, travel resumes and cooler temperatures set in, flu is likely to start circulating as well. That’s after measures to counter COVID-19, such as masks and ventilation, kept the flu at bay for the past year and a half.
Efforts have already been made to reduce the potential stress on health systems dealing with both diseases. A UK study released Thursday night showed it’s safe for people to get Covid and flu shots at the same time, which could help increase vaccine absorption and reduce appointments as the country moves. launches booster doses.
“This is a real concern for policy makers,” Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College whose models the UK government uses, told a conference in Paris. “It is very likely that we will continue to see the circulation of reasonably high levels of Covid during the winter, and having the seasonal flu at the top could again represent a significant additional burden on health systems.”
Ferguson and others at the meeting said vaccination in rich countries means there will likely be no increase in deaths from the coronavirus, but waning protection from those vaccines and other factors could still mean that many people end up in the hospital. Meanwhile, immunity to flu may also have declined among the general population after two winters with few cases, according to Arnaud Fontanet, an epidemiologist who advises the French government.
Concern over the extinction of Covid protection led Israel, one of the first countries to start vaccinating earlier in the year, to begin administering booster vaccines months ago.
“It was quite surprising for us to see early on that most of our severe cases occurred among fully vaccinated people,” said Ran Balicer of the Clalit Research Institute in Israel.
Britain began offering reinforcements to people aged 50 and over and other vulnerable groups last month. Giving flu shots at the same appointment would make things easier for both patients and the health service, said Rajeka Lazarus, consultant on infectious diseases and microbiology and lead researcher on the UK report released Thursday.
The study, which involved researchers from the University of Bristol and Bristol University Hospitals and the Weston NHS Foundation Trust, showed that the side effects of receiving the vaccines at the same time were mild to moderate, with no negative impact on response. immune to either one. Shooting.
It involved 679 adult volunteers at National Health Service sites in England and Wales who were to receive their second dose of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE or AstraZeneca Inc. vaccines.They were randomly divided into two groups to blindly receive different combinations of injections or a placebo in opposite arms during two visits between April and June. The results have not yet been peer reviewed.
The results of the British study provide a strong indication that people can safely receive their booster doses with a flu vaccine, according to Lazarus.
Ferguson presented data at the Paris conference showing that the shot from AstraZeneca and its partner, the University of Oxford, protected less than the one from Pfizer-BioNTech against the delta variant. Like Israel, he said the UK had seen “clear evidence of diminishing protection” for both injections against mild disease and more severe outcomes.
After two doses, the Astra injection offers 52% protection against mild symptomatic delta disease, compared to 90% for Pfizer, according to data from Ferguson.
Delta may have turned SARS-CoV-2 into “one of the most transmissible respiratory viruses we’ve ever seen,” with a reproduction rate between 6 and 9, he said.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)