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  • The flu is going around in the southern hemisphere
  • by Whang, byung-woo | translator Choi HeeYoung | Jun 27, 2022 05:57am
Trying to get vaccinated at the same time?
Experts stress vaccination strategies against COVID-19 pandemic + flu
Concerns are growing that the influenza epidemic may begin as the COVID-19 pandemic turns into an endemic and social distancing such as lifting outdoor masks is eased.

As the flu is showing signs of a full-fledged epidemic in Australia, one of the southern hemisphere countries that uses the flu as an indicator of the flu epidemic in the second half of the year, concerns are also being raised. It is pointed out that it is necessary to prepare countermeasures as the flu vaccination rate has fallen due to the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, and there may be repercussions from the release of masks.

In the case of the flu epidemic, the epidemic scenario in the northern hemisphere is often calculated based on the situation in the southern hemisphere in the first half of the year. As winter comes first in the southern hemisphere, it is to guess the trend of infectious diseases.

According to the Australian Influenza Surveillance Report (AISR), published biweekly by the Department of Health, the number of patients with flu symptoms in Australia has increased since March this year.

In May, Australia's medical institutions confirmed influenza viruses in samples such as patient sputum and runny nose and reported more than 25,000 cases to the Ministry of Health per week, and by early June, 87,989 cases were reported to Australia's NNDSS, of which 47,860 occurred in late May and early June.

This is a rapid increase compared to data from the past five years, and the gap is wider considering that the flu epidemic has not occurred due to COVID-19 in the past two years.

In the end, it is pointed out that the same phenomenon may occur during the domestic flu epidemic in the second half of the year.

Jung, Ki-seok, a professor of respiratory medicine at Hallym University Sungsim Hospital, said, "I don't know how much more exchanges between countries will occur in the second half, but I think the domestic flu will be the same." He said, "It is also difficult to predict the presence or absence of new mutations in COVID-19, but I think it is highly likely to be prevalent once more."

Choi Young-joon, general director of the KSPID (Korea University's Department of Pediatrics and Adolescents), also said, "We say that the epidemic will be this year because we haven't caught much flu over the past two years," adding, "There has been no local transmission and there is a high possibility of infection."

Companies such as Pfizer and Moderna have started to develop Combo vaccines that inoculate flu vaccines and COVID-19 vaccines at once, but as they have not yet succeeded in developing them, it is also the best countermeasure to plan individual vaccination plans at this stage.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of vaccinations increased significantly due to concerns over twin-demic during the 2020 vaccination period, but the site explained that NIP-oriented flu vaccinations were made in 2021.

Vice Chairman of the KIES Shin Kwang-chul said, "In 2020, I have been vaccinated the most and I remember securing as many flu vaccines as possible," adding, "But last year, we set the demand for flu vaccines low enough to order only 30% of the quantity in 2020." With the possibility of a flu epidemic, companies that produce flu vaccines are also getting busy. As SK Bioscience has not produced a flu vaccine this year following last year, domestic companies and multinational pharmaceutical companies are filling it up.

Sanofi Pasteur has already submitted to supply 2.2 million doses per dose at 10, 433 won per dose in connection with the procurement of the national vaccination (free flu vaccine vaccination project) for influenza vaccines, and has been selected as the top priority. 3 million doses of flu vaccine for Ilyang Pharmaceutical, which previously included NIP, are expected to be vaccinated in the private market.

Already on the 18th of last month, U.S. health authorities began discussing ways to vaccinate flu and coronavirus at the same time in preparation for the simultaneous spread of COVID-19 and flu in winter. There are negative opinions due to concerns over the stability of vaccinating two vaccines, but we cannot ignore the situation in which twin-demise will occur. Domestic experts also say that it is necessary to consider temporarily expanding the scope of NIP as well as vaccinating COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time.

Professor Jeong said, "There will be no big problem because the guidelines have already been set for inoculating two types of vaccines with one arm on each side." "If the flu vaccine epidemic is expected, we think it will be necessary to think about expanding the NIP range as we did before," he said.
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