Faced with the circulation of the Covid-19 virus, the health authorities have decided to bring forward the vaccination campaign by two weeks for the most vulnerable. It will begin on October 2. Who are these vaccines intended for? Will they be associated with the flu? What about masks and tests? All the answers to your questions.
Covid, flu: the vaccination campaign brought forward by two weeks
The Minister of Health announced that the vaccination campaign against the coronavirus has been brought forward from October 17 to October 2. For the most vulnerable, vaccination for the flu and for Covid-19 will therefore take place two weeks in advance. The Minister of Health declared that he contacted Covars on September 8 to ask them if it was necessary to accelerate the opening of the vaccination campaign. A week later, the president of Covars Brigitte Audran recommended opening vaccination more quickly to vulnerable people and more directly exposed to the virus because the epidemic is already circulating, particularly with the appearance of new variants.
For this campaign, vaccines adapted to the XBB.1.5 variant will be used preferentially.
These two vaccinations remain recommended for those most at risk (65 years and over, pregnant women, people who are immunocompromised or with comorbidities such as chronic illnesses, nursing home residents, etc.) as well as people who come into contact with them, such as caregivers.
French people outside of these categories who would like an anti-Covid booster will be able to benefit from it free of charge. Please note, the time limit to be respected after the last injection or Covid infection remains at least six months.
How does this compare today with the flu?
The Covid-19 pandemic has had terrible consequences, with the deaths of nearly 7 million people around the world.
But thanks to vaccines, immunity acquired after contamination, and better treatments, the virus is now much more under control.
“If you ask me to choose between the flu and Covid, I would choose Covid because each individual case of the flu is riskier“, Ashish Jha, doctor and former White House advisor, told AFP. But if Covid is now more rarely fatal, “it also seems to have a higher rate of complications in the long term“.
Covid-19 is also more contagious. Less seasonal than the flu, it has however reached a peak between December and January over the last three winters in the United States – slightly before the flu.
The Covid remains “clearly more serious than a traditional cold”also underlined infectious disease specialist Amesh Adalja.
Booster dose or not?
Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax have developed updated vaccines, new versions better adapted to the variants currently in circulation.
Getting vaccinated was essential at the height of the pandemic, and there is general agreement that booster doses are beneficial to the most vulnerable. But the advisability of re-vaccinating young and healthy people is debated.
Almost the entire population has already been infected in Western countries, studies have shown. And these infections, along with vaccines, have trained the immune system to defend itself.
According to professor of medicine Monica Gandhi, undifferentiated recommendations for everyone could harm trust in the authorities. Messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna carry risks of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), particularly in young men.
Thus, the United Kingdom, Europe and Central Europe recommend an annual booster for groups at risk only.
Other experts believe that the risks involved are minimal. Even people with little risk of developing a serious case of the disease “reap benefits from anti-Covid boosters,” estimates epidemiologist Ziyad Al-Aly.
The United States is recommending a booster for the entire population this fall.
What about masks?
The issue of masks has sometimes become very sensitive, particularly in the United States.
According to analysis by a respected organization, Cochrane, promoting mask wearing has had no visible effect in slowing the spread of the virus.
But researchers know, thanks to laboratory tests, that a well-fitted, quality mask (N-95 in the United States, FFP2 in Europe, etc.) protects.
People can therefore choose to wear them indoors, although this is generally not necessary according to Monica Gandhi, given the protection provided by vaccines.
Do you still need to test yourself?
People at risk — the oldest, or suffering from pathologies such as cancer, obesity or diabetes — should continue to test themselves if they experience symptoms, experts agree. Because they could then benefit from antivirals, drugs which must be taken quickly at the start of the infection, so that it does not degenerate.
The main treatment is Paxlovid, from Pfizer.
Some countries believe that testing only people at risk is sufficient, such as the United Kingdom. Free tests are still provided for them.
More “most people no longer need to test themselves“, write the British health authorities.”To avoid spreading the infection, stay home if you feel unwell“.
And the long Covid?
Research on long Covid — symptoms that last for months — remains hampered by the lack of definition on which everyone agrees, according to Amesh Adalja.
The prevalence is between 4 to 7%, or 65 million people worldwide, according to Ziyad Al-Aly. “Unfortunately, we have not made progress in treating long Covid”he said. “This should be a priority for agencies around the world“.
It seems that being vaccinated reduces the risk of developing long Covid, which is also often correlated with the severity of the infection.
The American government has funded several clinical trials to better understand this pathology. According to one of them, an antidiabetic drug helped reduce symptoms by 40%.
More results are expected in the coming months.