Bratislava, 11 October 2021: According to the Public Health Authority of Slovakia, the number of cases of influenza and flu-like diseases dropped in the last season by more than 40% over the previous one and was a kind of a "silver lining" of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about as people adopted more protective measures. Nevertheless, influenza-like diseases remain a high risk, particularly for older patients and those who have an underlying condition. Patients with cardiovascular or oncological diseases and diabetes are most at risk. Ján Klimas, the Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy of Comenius University Bratislava, offers a simple solution.

11. 10. 2021 08.15 hod.
By: CU External Relations Office

Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease which causes more than 800 deaths annually in Slovakia. This figure may not appear very high when compared to the deaths caused by other, non-contagious diseases. However, these are unnecessary deaths which can be prevented by vaccination.

In Slovakia, the total influenza vaccine coverage of the population in the 2019/2020 season was below 5% and it was just under 12% in the at-risk population of 65+. According to OECD data, Slovakia has the lowest vaccination coverage among EU member states. International authorities such as the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommend a vaccination coverage in the general population of at least 30%, and at least 75% in the at-risk population.

"Flu deaths are preventable. One of the ways of doing this is to motivate healthcare professionals to spread awareness among the population-at-risk. And, naturally, to lead by example," says the Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy of Comenius University Ján Klimas, who received a flu shot in October.

In Slovakia, a single flu vaccine shot costs €11.16 and is fully covered by the public health insurance. More than 308,000 doses were administered in the 2020/21 season. The total cost of these vaccines to the public health insurance system, excluding the charge for administration to the patient, was just under EUR 3.5 million. On the other hand, according to a study by the University of Genoa, published in 2012 in the journal Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, the cost of treating influenza was €940 in patients aged 18-65 and €1,270 in patients aged 65+.

Similarly, according to a 2020 research published by the Dutch Centre for Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology and Surveillance, and the Centre for Infectious Disease Control in The European Journal of Health Economics, the average cost of hospitalisation of a flu patient in the Netherlands was between €6,100 and €8,300, representing €20-28 million per year. In 2008, the loss of productivity due to influenza (i.e. indirect costs) was estimated by the Pharmacoeconomics magazine at between €6.4 and €9.8 billion per year in France and Germany alone. According to more recent data presented in a 2019 report of the International Longevity Centre UK, a British think-tank, more than 90 million people aged 50+ contract the flu every year, mostly in the more prosperous countries, leading to a loss of some 159 million working days, worth an estimated €33 billion.

According to the World Health Organisation, vaccination is one of the most effective tools in combating the spread of the influenza virus. A vaccinated person protects others, in addition to protecting themselves. Healthcare professionals, who are in daily contact with patients, should particularly be vaccinated. Likewise, medical students who train in health care facilities, should get vaccinated. They would protect their patients, as well as themselves.