Since its launch on October 17, the flu vaccination campaign has had limited success. Faced with these "mediocre" figures, much lower than those of last year at the same period, Aurélien Rousseau spoke on X (ex-tweeter). At the end of November, the health minister called for a "jolt" to catch up on the delay at the risk of seeing the hospital and those most at risk pay "a high price", he added. While indicators show an increase in respiratory diseases in the country, how can we explain that doses are struggling to flow?
Less than 8% of people vaccinated
Winter has just set in and already three regions of France, Île-de-France, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, have passed into the pre-epidemic phase according to Public Health France, since November 29. In response, the Minister of Health himself expressed concern about the possible spread of the flu to other parts of the territory. "The pre-epidemic indicators are shifting on influenza. It will gradually expand," he wrote in a post on X.
For their part, the two main pharmacists' unions, the FSPF (Federation of Pharmaceutical Unions of France) and the USPO (Union of Pharmacists' Unions) have sounded the alarm about the decline in the number of flu vaccine dispensing in pharmacies, according to data from the company IQVIA. "50 days after the launch of the annual campaign, just over 8 million doses of flu vaccine have been dispensed by pharmacists in the territory, which represents 600,000 fewer people vaccinated compared to last year. That's a drop of 8%," says Philippe Besset, president of the FSPF.
» READ ALSO - Bronchiolitis, Covid-19, flu and papillomavirus: which vaccines to take in the autumn?
Weariness, holidays, forgetfulness...
For the trade unionist, the trend can be explained by the French people's weariness with vaccination incentives. "It's something that's not new: it can be complicated to admit that getting vaccinated is good because most of the time, at the level of the individual, you don't see the immediate benefit." A problem reinforced, according to Philippe Besset, by the shadow cast by the Covid vaccination campaign which, conversely, has experienced a more positive dynamic (3.3 million people over the age of 65 have been vaccinated since October 2 compared to 2 million in 2022).
Pierre-Olivier Variot, president of the USPO, regrets the consequences of a little too hasty logistics. "Those targeted by the campaign as a priority, including the elderly and people at risk, receive their vaccination vouchers one month before the campaign starts. When they come to see us, we ask them to come back at the time of the launch. But very often they forget." In addition, there were several deterrents, including surprisingly mild temperatures in October and people going on vacation.
» READ ALSO - Flu, Covid, shingles, pneumococcus... Why Seniors Need to Get Vaccinated
Call for a jolt
At this stage, health authorities and specialists alike are deploring the potential impact of this delay. "If the flu epidemic is of the same nature as last year's, it is estimated that 600,000 fewer vaccinations could lead to a thousand additional hospitalizations and 300 to 400 deaths," says Philippe Besset. To reverse the curve, health authorities are insisting on collective awareness. They remind us that the vaccine is strongly recommended for the most vulnerable populations (the elderly, people with chronic diseases, immunocompromised, and pregnant women) who are more likely to develop severe forms. Nevertheless, it remains open to all. "A reversal is still possible, but this must be achieved by strengthening communication around the vaccination strategy. In addition, it is also the role of healthcare professionals to be doubly vigilant about the vaccination status of their patients in order to encourage them to get vaccinated if they have forgotten," says Pierre-Olivier Variot.