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Demand for flu jab remains within bounds

The flu vaccine is only recommended for people in risk groups

(swissinfo.ch)

The national flu vaccination day in Switzerland has passed off without the expected huge demand. Many people in risk groups had already been vaccinated.

Organisers said the public seemed to have realised that there is no connection between seasonal flu and the avian flu virus.

The College of Primary Care Medicine, which organised the vaccination day, said more people had been vaccinated than in previous years, with the elderly, the chronically ill and healthcare workers generally heeding advice to get a flu shot.

The organisation's director, Ueli Grüninger, said that on the whole the day had passed peacefully and doctors had not reported huge queues at their practices. In some cases people were able to turn up unannounced and receive an injection.

But those not considered to be at risk were either turned away or made to join a waiting list.

The authorities had feared that the 1.26 million doses of vaccine available would not be enough to cover all those in the risk groups in the event of huge demand for the injection.

But Grüninger said those sections of the population not considered at risk had generally kept away from doctors' surgeries on Friday.

Avian-flu fears

Demand for flu injections has jumped this year amid fears of a possible bird-flu pandemic.

However, the Federal Health Office and College of Primary Care Medicine both warned ahead of the vaccination day that the available vaccine only offers protection against seasonal flu and not the avian variety.

"The fever generated by avian flu has dropped – at least in the media," government spokesman Oswald Sigg told the media on Friday.

The head of the Federal Health Office, Thomas Zeltner, said it appeared bird-flu fears among the general population had also eased. The number of calls from the public requesting information about the virus had dropped from 170 per day to around 20 per day in the course of two to three weeks.

Two weeks ago the interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, criticised the "hysteria" surrounding a possible bird-flu pandemic. He said a distinction had to be made between bird flu, which is an animal virus, and seasonal flu, which affects humans.

In Switzerland, 100,000 to 300,000 people contract seasonal flu every year. Between 1,000 and 5,000 have to be admitted to hospital and between 400 and 1,000 die as a result of the illness.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Switzerland has 1.26 million doses of flu vaccine, which the Federal Health Office considers sufficiant for the time being.
Every year, between 100,000 and 300,000 people in Switzerland are infected with seasonal flu.
1,000 to 5,000 are admitted to hospital and 400 to 1,000 die of the virus.

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