MINSK, 15 September (BelTA) – Mass vaccination against influenza started in Belarus on 15 September, head of the department for hygiene, epidemiology and disease prevention at the Healthcare Ministry Inna Karaban told the media at the BelTA press center.
“This year the vaccination kicked off a bit earlier. Usually it starts on 1 October. The timing is due to the coronavirus infection. We decided to launch the vaccination earlier than usual in order to ease the viral burden. Weather conditions also played their part. It is better to do it now while the weather is not so cold. This way we will let the immune system develop resistance before the surge in viral diseases,” Inna Karaban said.
The vaccination will be done using the Russian vaccine Grippol Plus. The vaccine was purchased using the funds of the central and local budgets. “We have been using it for many years already. It has proved to be a rather effective vaccine, it is well tolerated by adults and children. The vaccines Vaxigrip Tetra and Ultrix, Influvac will be available for a fee. All the vaccines are subject to quality and safety control in Belarus,” Inna Karaban said.
She emphasized that the 2019 vaccination allowed preventing over 140,000 flu cases, including about 17,000 severe influenza outcomes. “The vaccination efficiency is rather high. People should keep in mind that this is not an ordinary season, therefore we urge everyone to have a vaccine. My personal example: I have been receiving flu vaccines for more than 10 years every year and I have not had a single incident of laboratory-confirmed flu. Even when I had symptoms of a viral infection, the disease was mild and went away pretty fast,” she added.
Just like in the previous years, at least 40% of the population are to receive a flu vaccine. “The focus will be made on people over 65 years with underlying chronic diseases. They should be encouraged to have a vaccine this year, because a flu aggravated by the coronavirus infection can take a harsh toll on their health,” she added.
Head of the National Center for Influenza and Other Acute Respiratory Diseases Natalia Shmeleva explained that vaccine compositions are updated every year depending on the antigenic properties of circulating viruses. “The distinctive feature of flu viruses is that they are actively mutating.
The vaccine to be used this season has an updated antigenic composition across all three components. Therefore, if we are asked “should I be vaccinated this year if I was vaccinated last year?” we strongly encourage to have a vaccine, since a new vaccine will provide a more comprehensive protection,” she added.