COMMON seasonal flu is more deadly than swine flu – known here as Grippe A – despite the latter’s domination of headlines.
Between two and seven million people are affected by seasonal flu every autumn and winter in France and it kills on average 1 in 1,000 people.
It is also more dangerous for older people as they can be more at risk of complications with heart and lungs.
Doctors have noted that older people are statistically less likely to catch swine flu – perhaps because of built-in immunity from previous exposure to H1N1 flu, or it may be that young people use places that are more crowded.
However, seasonal flu is a known killer and can mean tens of thousands of deaths a year in a bad year.
This year French authorities are getting ready to tackle both seasonal flu and swine flu with a vaccination campaign. Seasonal flu vaccine is also being prepared and letters on how to get it and where to go to be vaccinated are being sent out by the Assurance Maladie to all people in at-risk groups. The risk lists have been prepared from information given by GPs, médecin traitants, and they only apply to people who have already signed up with a local doctor.
Two forms come with the letter: one for the doctor to get your vaccine prescription and the other to get the injection.
The priority groups for flu jabs include people over 65, those with health issues such as lung, heart or kidney problems or diabetes. Nursing mothers are also on the list. People on the priority list get costs reimbursed 100%.
Anyone who wants the seasonal vaccine for themselves can get it at a pharmacy – costing under €7. They will have to go to a nurse or doctor to get the injection. However, costs will only be reimbursed if the vaccine is prescribed by a doctor and will be repaid at the normal rate of 65%.
Once picked up from the pharmacy, the vaccine should be stored in a fridge – but not in a freezer – until your appointment with your GP, nurse or vaccination centre.
You will be asked to fill in a form with your personal details, GP’s details and details of allergies or other problems.
The procedure for swine flu jabs will be similar and tests are being done to check there is no reaction between the two types of vaccine. For swine flu, patients will go to vaccination centres. It requires two jabs, given in the one session. The first batches of the newly-developed swine flu vaccine have arrived and doctors, nurses and medical workers get priority.
Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the vaccine would not be obligatory but was highly recommended for pregnant women and mothers with babies.