The flu vaccine will be available later this year, but still on time. (Photo:
A flu vaccine is expected to be available in October this year. The reason for the delay is the unusually slow growth of one type of influenza virus needed to produce the vaccine. Nevertheless, all vaccinations can be carried out in time, emphasize the responsible institutions. The flu vaccine is especially important for the elderly and the chronically ill. Every year at the beginning of September, the vaccination season usually begins against the current form of the flu. However, this year is different: The vaccine is expected to come on the market in October. This is reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI). "No need to worry, " says Walter Haas of the RKI's Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit. "The officially recommended months of vaccination are October and November anyway, and according to the manufacturers, the vaccine will also be available to a sufficient degree." The increased demand this year is also not problematic, Haas emphasizes: "Although the flu vaccine can not provide protection against avian flu, the whole discussion has raised the attention on the subject of vaccinations and thus increase demand."

Every year, researchers investigate the types of agents that have emerged in the world and predict which of these pathogens could lead to a flu epidemic. Based on these findings, the World Health Organization will then decide between January and February which pathogens will be used to produce the vaccine. The production of the vaccine then take over specialized companies.

"The basis for producing the annual flu vaccine is chicken eggs, " says Haas. The flu viruses are injected into the eggs and multiply until eventually they can be isolated. Subsequently, the pathogens are still cleaned and rendered harmless. This is done by chemical means or by heat. The mixture of components of the different viruses then serves as a vaccine. The whole process usually takes six months. This year, though, it will take a little longer. "One of the pathogens did not multiply so effectively in the chicken eggs this year, and so the production of the vaccine was delayed, " explains Haas.

According to Johannes Löwer, President of the PEI, not all vaccinations can be carried out immediately due to increased demand and the usual phased delivery of flu vaccines. However, the amount of vaccine will be extended to meet the needs during the vaccination season. Information on the availability of vaccines can be obtained from influenza vaccine manufacturers, according to the joint press release from the PEI and RKI. display

If the vaccine finally comes on the market in October, then the risk groups should first receive a vaccine, Haas recommends. People who have weakened immune systems are at increased risk of serious complications from influenza. These include the chronically ill, asthmatics, people with congenital and acquired immune deficiencies but also people with metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

Vaccination is also recommended for people over sixty, as their immune system is generally weaker than that of young people. "Forty to fifty percent of these high-risk patients have been vaccinated annually - that's not enough, " says Haas. "This percentage should rise to 75 percent". An additional vaccination recommendation also applies to persons who have a lot of contact with people from the risk groups, such as the staff of retirement homes or hospitals. They are both at higher risk and potential transmitters of the flu. "In this group, the vaccination rate is hardly higher than in the population average, " complains Haas. "Here too, more should be vaccinated."

An influenza vaccine has to be re-administered every year, as influenza viruses change very fast. The intensity of a flu epidemic varies greatly from year to year and depends on the particular characteristics of the virus. Last winter, the flu epidemic was comparatively weak. In the flu season between 2004 and 2005, however, it looked quite different. According to the RKI, this flu season cost 10, 000 to 15, 000 lives, especially the elderly and the sick.

In addition, the many illness-related professional failures have caused considerable economic damage. In this context, Haas says: "There is nothing wrong with vaccinating people who are not at risk." Since the vaccine only consists of dead influenza viruses or their components, there is no danger and the side effects are low. Caution should be exercised only in the event of an allergy to chickweed, as the vaccine may still be low in production due to its production in the chicken eggs. In this case, the doctor should be advised of the allergy. As a rule, the statutory health insurance companies reimburse the costs of the flu vaccine. Since the regulations in different federal states are different, one should inquire before a vaccination with his physician or his health insurance company, how the cost assumption in the own region is handled.

ddp / Martin Vieweg

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