Make flu vaccinations simpler to encourage older people, says mutuality

Make flu vaccinations simpler to encourage older people, says mutuality
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Flu vaccinations among people over the age of 65 – considered a higher-risk group – are standing at no higher than 53%, according to a survey by the socialist mutuality, despite World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines which set the minimum at 75%.

As far as the mutuality is concerned, the process for getting vaccinated is too cumbersome, and needs to be made simpler so as to encourage more older people – and more people in general – to take the step.

The flu vaccine costs €13, although free for older people living in rest homes (because of the substantially higher risk of cross-infection). Others have about half of the cost reimbursed by their health insurer, which allows the mutuality to see how many of their clients have in fact bought the vaccine.

The process involves a visit to the doctor to obtain a prescription, then a visit to the pharmacy to pick up the vial of vaccine, and finally a return to the doctor where the injection can be administered.

The figures show that across the country, only 53% of over-65s have picked up the vaccine. And while the figure for Flanders at 60% is higher than for Wallonia and Brussels, the sum total is still far below the WHO recommendation.

And yet it’s important to vaccinate older people against the flu,” Paul Callewaert of the mutuality told the VRT. “They are a risk group, and can be subject to serious complications of flu, such as respiratory infection and bronchitis, with possibly fatal consequences in the worst cases.”

One way to increase the figures of those who get vaccinated, he said, would be to make the procedure simpler and less time-consuming by skipping one step.

“We have to lower the barrier for flu vaccinations. It ought to be possible in the short term for the GP to write an electronic prescription automatically for their risk patients and send that to the pharmacy. That would mean the patient no longer had to pass by the doctor’s first. They can then go straight to the pharmacy for the vaccine, then on to the doctor for the injection.”

The doctors, meanwhile, would have no objection to such a change. “If it would make things simpler for the patient, I would certainly support it,” said Roel Van Giel of the GPs’ association Domus Medica. “But care-givers also need to put their heads together on a regional level to reach more older people with flu vaccinations.”

Possibilities include large-scale and low-barrier vaccination moments, allowing home nurses to give vaccinations and delivering the vaccines directly to GPs. “But cooperation is the key, if we want to protect more older people against the flu.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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