Vaccine bottleneck - flu wave is approaching

Vaccine bottleneck - flu wave is approaching

Doctors are concerned about the lack of a flu vaccine

A particularly strong flu wave is expected in Germany in the coming winter. Doctors are concerned about scarce flu vaccine supplies. The bottleneck occurred due to delivery difficulties at the pharmaceutical company Novartis, which won the tender from the health insurers. The coalition is now discussing a new regulation of previous practice.

Bottleneck in the flu vaccine, particularly dangerous for the elderly and the sick According to experts, the next wave of flu is just around the corner. As in the southern hemisphere, as of December, significantly more people are expected to contract influenza than in the previous year. This is particularly dangerous for older and sick people whose immune systems are weakened. The Robert Koch Institute's (RKI) Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) has therefore issued a vaccination recommendation for certain, particularly vulnerable groups of people. However, due to delivery difficulties from the manufacturer Novartis, there is currently a bottleneck for the drug Begipal.

Bavaria and the northern German federal states in particular are affected by the delivery difficulties. After an invitation to tender, which Novartis won, the health insurance companies concluded contracts for the low-cost vaccine BEGRIPAL with the pharmaceutical company. Due to the bottleneck, the health insurance funds had also released other vaccines for the affected regions, but they also have insufficient vaccine stocks because they were not geared to the high demand after Novartis won the tender.

A longer lead time is required for the production of a vaccine, since the production is very labor-intensive and time-consuming. The virus contained in the vaccine reproduces in eggs and takes about six months. The finished flu vaccine is usually available in June or July and is tested in annual clinical trials.

Coalition calls for new regulations for tender for flu vaccine
Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics GmbH has not yet announced how the delivery bottleneck could come about. Bottlenecks in the vaccine were only reported for northern Germany and Bavaria, as there were no tenders in other regions.

Demands for a new regulation to ensure an adequate supply of vaccine in the future are becoming louder. In the coalition there is also a lot of discussion about a revision of current practice. "With vaccines, we have to review the instrument of the alerts," Jens Spahn, health spokesman for the CDU, told the news agency "dpa".

Peter Wutzler, President of the German Association for Combating Viral Diseases, also criticizes the current practice. The exclusive contracts that the health insurers conclude with certain manufacturers put the care of patients at risk. Medical professionals should be given the opportunity to use the most suitable vaccine. At the moment, they are committed to a certain means. Wutzler emphasized that doctors should "choose the vaccine based on efficacy and target the respective target group".

Bavarian family doctors raise the alarm about a bottleneck in the flu vaccine
Bavarian family doctors recently raised the alarm. Despite promises made by the local health insurance associations, the vaccine serum had not yet reached general practitioners' offices. The General Practitioners Association may therefore not be afraid of late delivery until early December. However, that was too late for many people. The flu shots are usually given from September to November, as the first influenza cases are expected in December. The body needs about two weeks after vaccination to build effective virus protection.

As the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in Schleswig-Holstein announced, some doctors had already received a replacement vaccine, but they were sending it back because of concerns. The health doctors are annoyed by the situation. "This is annoying when there is not enough vaccine," said Roland Stahl, spokesman for the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians.

Violent flu wave expected "I'm expecting a tough season," said Wutzler. In the southern hemisphere, there have recently been many flu deaths. In addition, large parts of the German population have not been immunized.

According to the Australian Ministry of Health, a particularly large number of Australians were infected with the H3N2 pathogen this flu season. In contrast, there were only a few infections with the swine flu virus H1N1 compared to the previous year. At the beginning of the season, the authorities registered an unusually sharp increase in the number of flu cases. According to the Ministry of Health, the number of infections over the entire flu season was hardly higher than in previous flu waves. The peak of influenza-related hospital admissions was reached in mid-July. Since then there has been a significant decline. (ag)

Read also about flu vaccination:
No flu vaccine: emergency brake by health insurance companies
Swine flu vaccine causes narcolepsy
Flu shot offers protection against heart attack?

Photo credit: Dieter Sch├╝tz /

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