Flu vaccinated Danes not protected against influenza B despite EU urgings

This year has seen one of the most serious flu epidemics in Denmark for many years and a lot of the cases are as a result of influenza B

Back in December, the EU body responsible for disease prevention and control, ECDC, published a recommendation that all countries in the union should buy a new kind of anti-flu vaccine that protects people against four types of flu.

The one at present in use in Denmark only protects against three types – it does not protect you against influenza B.

Denmark is now in the grip of a flu epidemic and it is estimated that 160 people with weakened immune systems have died as as a result of catching the disease.

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So far this year, 3,277 Danes have been diagnosed with flu and hospitalised. Of those, 2,511 had influenza type B, reports Politiken.

Although Denmark’s vaccination authority, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), has said that this epidemic is especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, they have no plans to follow the EU recommendation and buy the vaccine.

Contractual difficulties
The problem is that Denmark can’t get out of the current contract and tender for new supplies in time. SSI also doesn’t believe that there is solid evidence that the beneficial effects outweigh the expense and possible side-effects.

“I can understand that it seems obvious that we should just change over to the new vaccine but the reality – and the virus – is a little more complicated,” said Tyra Grove Krause, the departmental head at SSI. The new vaccine would also cost between 20 and 40 percent more than the present one.

Grove Krause also adds that up to now it was thought that influenza B was not as serious as influenza A.

“Typically, you see a higher mortality rate when influenza A is around. The elderly are especially at risk. Normally, influenza B comes along in the wake of the A form and hits especially adults and school children. It is unusual to see fatalities in this connection,” said Grove Krause.

A ‘must have’ for DF
Dansk Folkeparti would like to see Denmark follow EU guidelines.

“Of course we should have the vaccine that offers most protection so that we can protect citizens in ‘at risk’ groups,” said Liselott Blixt, the chair of Parliament’s committee for health and the elderly.

“If it is a question of money, then we must find it so that we can ensure that people get the best treatment,” she added.