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The Robert Koch Institute and German health authorities are calling for vaccination against the flu. For the first time, vaccination is also recommended for pregnant women.
(14.09.2010) German health authorities such as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) are calling on all flu-prone people to be vaccinated against the flu as the flu season begins. It is also the first time that pregnant women are advised to be vaccinated, since last year they were disproportionately admitted to a clinic with swine flu infection and the course of normal influenza in pregnant women is usually much more severe. However, Germans still have great reservations about the flu vaccine and this year the health authorities are committed to a particularly extensive information campaign.
"We are aware that targeted information campaigns are necessary," emphasizes Susanne Glasmacher from the Robert Koch Institute. As every year at the start of the flu season, the experts call for a flu shot to protect yourself against the most common influenza viruses. According to the President of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Klaus Cichutek, the current vaccine protects against the three most common influenza virus types, including swine flu (H1N1). Because according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the H1N1 virus will appear again in Germany in the coming autumn and winter.
According to the experts, October and November are the ideal time for a vaccination and just 10 to 14 days after the vaccination, complete vaccination protection is effective. The risk groups that health authorities believe should be vaccinated in any case include all people over the age of 60, people with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular patients, diabetics or chronic lung diseases. In addition, pregnant women will be vaccinated for the first time this year for the reasons mentioned above. Experts such as the President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Reinhard Burger, have vaccination rates of 50 to 60 percent - comparable to the Scandinavian countries - as a long-term goal. This also has a significant economic dimension, so that such ideas, in the opinion of the author and vaccination expert Dr. Martin Hirte are extremely critical. Because the production and distribution of the substances offer a huge business area, behind which there is a strong lobby, which has a great interest in the positive presentation of the vaccinations.
However, all health authorities agree on the vaccination of those at risk of disease and also unanimously demand higher vaccination rates for staff in hospitals, doctor's offices and old people's and nursing homes, since the risk of infection is particularly high here. The vaccination rate for medical personnel is much too low at around 20 percent, Birte Kirschbaum from the Federal Center for Health Education (BzgA) also emphasizes. That is why the BzgA has sent all 65,000 resident doctors new information material to inform the staff and those at risk of illness about the benefits of a flu vaccination.
Millions of people get flu in Germany every year and while most patients only have relatively mild symptoms, the influenza virus can have extremely serious health consequences for the above-mentioned risk groups. The influenza working group at the Robert Koch Institute estimates that the medium-strong flu wave in 2009/2010 required around 2.9 million additional visits to the doctor and 5,300 influenza-related admissions to clinics, and that those affected had to be written around 1.5 million times unable to work. Thorsten Wolff, head of influenza research at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Berlin, also warns against underestimating influenza viruses, because they are still dangerous and insidious opponents. The fight against the influenza viruses cannot be won in the opinion of the expert, since the viruses continuously change their structure and appear in ever new forms. "This is a cold war, a virus against humans," emphasized Thorsten Wolff from the RKI.
The Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) responsible for the approval of the vaccines has released 20.5 million vaccine doses so far this year, with the current vaccine ("Fluvax Junior") based on a combination of the influenza strains A and B with the H1N1 virus based. This combination was considered relatively unproblematic until the first flu vaccinations in Australia in May, as it is a traditional split vaccine without the controversial potentiators used in vaccines against swine flu in Europe. During the first comprehensive vaccinations with the new vaccine, however, there were often significant side effects. Numerous patients suffered from severe febrile seizures after the administration and a two-year-old child died within 12 hours after the vaccination without any known previous illnesses. Therefore, the Australian government has withdrawn its vaccination recommendations and is now advising healthy children against flu vaccination with "Fluvax Junior".
The Germans' mistrust of flu vaccinations is not entirely unfounded, and it remains to be doubted whether patients will follow the advice on annual protective vaccinations more frequently in the future. Since the vaccines contain not only the active ingredients for the most part, but also preservatives based on formaldehyde and mercury compounds, there are also considerable reservations in naturopathy against extensive flu vaccinations. It is also pointed out here that the flu viruses are partly cultivated in egg white and people with allergies should therefore be careful. (fp)
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