Medical experts are concerned that flu vaccines may be less effective this winter as resources have been focussed on Covid over the past year and there has been a significant drop in global shipments of influenza surveillance samples. MailOnline has the story.
Every year a new influenza vaccine is developed to protect against several strains of the virus that have been circulating around the world.
But over the past year, surveillance of flu strains dropped to a fraction of normal levels as medical resources were turned over to monitoring Covid.
There has also been a lack of flu infections because of lockdowns worldwide, which has also reduced surveillance.
The effectiveness of flu vaccines varies from one season to the next but it is estimated at between 30 and 60%.
It comes amid fears of a bad bout of influenza this year due to a lack of natural immunity caused by lockdowns.
Last September – five months before experts decide which strain to protect against – global genetic sequencing of flu had dropped by 94%, according to jab makers.
And global shipments of influenza surveillance samples have dropped by 62% compared to before the pandemic.
Dr. Beverly Taylor, Head of Influenza and Scientific Affairs at Seqirus, which provides Britain with seasonal flu jabs, said: “We could have reduced the opportunity to identify viruses as they emerge.
“We certainly have reduced the opportunity to look at which viruses would give the best overall protection and the best coverage of all the circulating viruses.”
There are concerns the NHS could be overwhelmed this winter by a triple-whammy of surging flu and Covid admissions, and backlog patients needing treatment.
Experts also fear immunity to flu has waned over the year-and-a-half since the pandemic began because so few people have caught the virus.
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