Seasonal influenza vaccination and antiviral use in EU/EEA Member States

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 European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Seasonal influenza vaccination and antiviral use in EU/EEA Member States. Stockholm: ECDC; 2018. 

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A survey was circulated in January 2018 to provide an update on seasonal influenza immunisation policies in 2017– 18 and obtain vaccination coverage rates in EU/EEA Member States for the 2015–16, 2016–17 and 2017-18 (if available) influenza seasons. In addition, the survey mapped methods of monitoring vaccination coverage, vaccine dose number procured, payment mechanisms for vaccine and vaccine administration, vaccine products recommended by population groups and complementary antiviral use for treatment or prophylaxis in vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

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Influenza vaccination coverage rates insufficient across EU Member States

None of the European Union (EU) Member States could demonstrate that they reach the EU target of 75% influenza vaccination coverage for vulnerable groups, according to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Influenza vaccination coverage rates in the EU/EEA

ECDC is collecting, sharing and disseminating information on national vaccination programmes and provides guidance for improving the overall performance of the vaccination systems in EU/EEA Member States. The latest data on vaccination coverage by country in the EU/EEA of different risk- and target groups are available in the reports listed on this page.

Factsheet about seasonal influenza

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

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Seasonal influenza vaccines

Seasonal influenza is a vaccine-preventable disease and annual influenza vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza. ECDC continues to emphasise that all Europeans who are recommended to have the influenza vaccine should get vaccinated.  Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications: Individuals with specific chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and children aged 6-59 months, the elderly and healthcare workers.

Seasonal influenza vaccination strategies

The immunity that is elicited by influenza vaccines is not as long lived as the immunity following natural influenza infection. This is especially so for individuals in the so-called risk groups, hence people have to be vaccinated annually. There are three influenza immunisation strategies used in Europe: to protect the vulnerable, to protect healthy children, adolescents and adults and to reduce overall influenza transmission.

Risk groups for severe influenza

Some people are at high risk of serious complications as a result of influenza, some of which can be life-threatening and result in death. The risk groups includes people who are more likely than others to develop severe disease if they should be infected, such as the elderly, pregnant women, young children and people with underlying health conditions.

Types of seasonal influenza vaccine

Injected trivalent inactivated influenza vaccines are most commonly used throughout the world. Influenza antigen preparation varies between manufacturers. The inactivated influenza vaccines available in the EU/EEA may contain either split virion influenza virus products or subunit influenza products. Adjuvanted inactivated subunit influenza vaccine for older people is available in some EU/EEA Member States and is since 2015 authorised for younger children in Canada but not yet in Europe.

Infographic: Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?

Every year flu is different, so every year you need an updated vaccine. Usually, a flu vaccination reduces the risk by 60%. In a bad year, the seasonal flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by only 20% to 30% in the overall population.

Immunity following influenza disease and administration of influenza vaccines

For infants the first encounter with influenza viruses commonly occurs in their first or second winter season. Subsequently, each individual acquires a number of influenza infections throughout life. It is expected that up to ~15% of a European population in a temperate climate is infected with influenza in any winter season with higher percentages in children and lower in older people.

Timing of influenza vaccination

It takes 10 to 14 days following vaccination, before an immune response and protection develops. Therefore, most countries start immunisation in the early autumn.

Vaccine schedules for seasonal influenza in all countries of the European Union

The Vaccination Schedule is an interactive platform of vaccination schedules for individual European countries and specific age groups. With this tool comparisons can be made for vaccination policies between two countries or by disease for all or a selection of countries. Despite this platform being continuously monitored, it is suggested the national competent bodies are also consulted for the most up to date policies.

All updates on seasonal influenza

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Weekly influenza update, week 19, May 2019

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Weekly influenza update, week 17, April 2019

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Influenza virus characterisation, March 2019

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