Influenza vaccine, battle between Regions and pharmacies: “To private individuals only 250 thousand doses”

A record number of flu vaccines, Regions agreeing on their distribution, pharmacists angry that they won’t get enough to meet private demand. Italy is heading towards the beginning of the campaigns against seasonal disease amid discontent and fears for the effect that an infectious disease problem with symptoms almost overlapping with those of Covid while the same Covid is still circulating. It is feared that the two pathologies will be confused, creating problems for doctors, health facilities and obviously citizens.

The vaccines ordered by the Regions this year are many: 16.7 million. Last year, for comparison, 10 million were made. It is expected that the fear of the Italians and the campaigns of the ASL and the Regions will increase membership, which in recent times had been low. Some local authorities would like to order even more lots but it is now very difficult to find them. Pharmaceutical companies receive higher than usual requests from all countries so they are unable to increase supplies. Some of us are also trying with China, for example Lombardy.

Given that the public service has ordered practically all the doses available, there are none left for the pharmacies, where those who do not receive the vaccine for free from the ASL go through their family doctor. The order of those professionals and also the trade associations have been complaining for days and they even made a meeting at the ministry in which it seemed that a solution was near. Yesterday, however, the State-Regions conference closed the agreement to review the share of doses of influenza vaccines to be allocated to the local system. He has decided to deliver 1.5% to private individuals, which is equivalent to about 250,000 doses. Too few for the order, Federfarma and Assofarm. “It takes between 1.2 and 1.5 million”, protest pharmacists. Last year, about 800 thousand were purchased. This year, however, in many Regions it is believed that once the vaccination of subjects at risk is finished, there will still be doses available to doctors, who will be able to do them to those who do not belong to the protected categories.

The president of the State-Regions conference Stefano Bonaccini explains that: “Every year 800 thousand citizens who do not fall within the categories for which vaccination is recommended, still turn to the pharmacist to buy the vaccine at their own expense. Since the recommendation for the vaccine anti-influenza this year has been extended to age categories not previously included, the Regions have provided and are providing for a wider acquisition of vaccines. For this reason, a redistributive intervention of the Regions is now needed to make a minimum percentage available. , 1.5 per cent, (possibly increased by the individual Regions) in pharmacies. The only condition that we have placed and on which we have had assurances from the Government is that the quantity necessary for the categories at risk is ensured in any case “.

Bonaccini also remembers why the vaccination campaign against the flu is important this year. “Influenza vaccination, although not 100% effective, can help reduce the burden of disease in the population and this is even more important if we consider the case in which influenza and Covid-19 are simultaneously present in a community. Containing the number of influenza cases facilitates the differential diagnosis and avoids overloading the health system “.

The Ministry of Health already in June issued a circular to dictate the rules of the new vaccination campaign. Here is a vademecum based on that document and on regional measures

How many doses have the Regions bought this year?
16.7 million but some Regions would be willing to increase their share.

When does the campaign start?
Regions were asked to anticipate times compared to last years. Hopefully, we should leave in the first half of October.

Until when can you be vaccinated?
If the campaign is well attended, it will take weeks to vaccinate everyone. It won’t be a problem because the flu’s peak in recent years came in January-February.

How long after the injection are you covered?
It takes 10-15 days for the vaccine to take effect.

For whom is the vaccine recommended, and therefore free?
This year the age of those who have the right to the vaccine, because they are considered fragile, has been lowered from 65 to 60 years. Theoretically this is 4 million more people to be vaccinated. The Regions were also given the opportunity to recommend vaccination from 6 months to 6 years, an opportunity exploited only by some local administrations. In addition, people with certain diseases of any age, and those who work in services considered essential, for example in healthcare, also get the vaccine for free.

Is there a requirement for an influenza vaccine?
Only Lazio has foreseen this in an ordinance of 17 April in which vaccination against influenza and pneumococcus is made compulsory for the over 65 and for all health personnel. The TAR has recently rejected requests for suspension of that act.

What was the coverage last year?
About 55% of the over 65s.

What is the goal of this year’s vaccination campaign?
According to the WHO, in order to have a good coverage that significantly lowers the circulation of the virus, at least 75% of people at risk must be reached. The ideal diffusion, however, is considered to be that of 95%, impossible to achieve.

Who administers the vaccine?
As always, family doctors but also local health authorities. In certain regions, pediatricians have also been involved.

How much does the vaccine cost at the pharmacy?
The price, depending on the brands, should not exceed 25 euros.

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