Latvia introduces 'extra-effective' flu shot for seniors

A particularly effective vaccine against influenza is available in Latvia for the first time this year for seniors aged 65 and over. Doctors are urging young people to campaign for parents and grandparents to get vaccinated “so as not to end up in hospital and die”, according to a Disease Prevention and Control Center's press briefing on October 19.

Professor Dace Zavadska, President of the State Council for Immunization, Head of Family Vaccination Center at the Children's Clinical University Hospital, acknowledged that Latvia has not really assessed the impact of influenza on society.

“Somehow people see it as a short-term nuisance - temperature, headaches and it seems like it's going to end, nothing crazy is going to happen. But that's just the visible part of the iceberg,” Zavadska said, adding that flu can cause serious complications, and can significantly increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The effects of influenza on the cardiovascular system are dangerous and vaccination can reduce the risk, Zavadska explained.

She also stressed that October and November are the right time to get vaccines before more active virus circulation has begun, but this can also be done during virus circulation. 

Different types of vaccines are available in Latvia this year, taking into account the age and state of health of people, Zavadska said.

Children have access to nasal vaccines, while all seniors aged 65 and over have access to a high-dose vaccine. It's been used in many other countries for many years, it's not a new vaccine, Zavadska said. This vaccine has higher efficacy.

The head of the Consultative Service for Infectious Diseases and Hospital Epidemiology at Pauls Stradiņš Clinical University Hospital, Uga Dumpis, said that only 17% of seniors in Latvia had been vaccinated against the flu last season, while in other European countries, the rate reached as high as 80%.

Vaccines against the Omicron variant of Covid-19 are also available in Latvia, and for at-risk groups, doctors recommend vaccinating against influenza and Covid-19 at the same time.

The family doctor Ingars Burlaks called on young people to encourrage parents and grandparents to get vaccinated.

He stressed in particular that in the case of parents or grandparents who are sick and elderly, vaccination is the way “to not end up in hospital and die.”

Larisa Savrasova, head of the infectious disease monitoring and immunization unit of the Centre for Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that the intensity of influenza is currently low, only cases in Rīga and Daugavpils have been reported. But the viral intensity is growing very rapidly, making it difficult to predict developments, but most likely flu, Covid-19, and other respiratory infections are circulating together this season. Recently, the number of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 has increased -- there were 72 during the week, compared with an average of 16 in the summer, Savrasova said.

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