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ISSN: 2450-5927
Journal of Health Inequalities
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vol. 4
Letter to the Editor

Influenza vaccination in Poland – it’s time to close the health gap!

Maciej Dariusz Zatonski

European Observatory of Health Inequalities, the President Stanisław Wojciechowski State University of Applied Sciences, Kalisz, Poland
J Health Inequal 2018; 4 (2): 82-83
Online publish date: 2018/12/31
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during the 2016/2017 season influenza vaccines prevented an estimated 5.3 million influenza illnesses, 2.6 million influenza-associated medical visits, and at least 85,000 influenza-related hospitalisations in the United States (US) alone [1]. In seasons when the World Health Organization (WHO) predictions matched circulating strains, influenza vaccines were shown to reduce the risk of having a medical intervention for influenza by 40-60% [2]. Influenza vaccinations were shown to reduce the risk of admissions to intensive care units, reduce hospital admissions for all influenza-like illness, and reduce mortality in people with diabetes, lung, and heart diseases [3-6].
And yet, the vast majority of countries, including most European Union (EU) states, fall short of the WHO vaccination target of 70% of the eligible population [7, 8]. In Poland, in the last influenza season less than 4% of the population were vaccinated against influenza. As a result, in 2016-2017 over 4 million cases of influenza were recorded, including about 100 influenza-related deaths [9].
Despite the best efforts of researchers, there is no universal vaccine available yet that would protect against all possible mutation of the influenza virus. However, evidence from other countries shows that this factor alone is not necessarily an obstacle to achieving high vaccination rates. Costs of implementation of universal influenza vaccination programmes might initially seem high but would very likely bring immediate and significant cost savings, while greatly reducing morbidity and mortality.
According to an article by Dr. Michał Seweryn published in this issue of the Journal of Health Inequalities, the combined cost of influenza-related pulmonary hospitalisation and productivity loss due to work-related absence in Poland is estimated to be around PLN 168.7 million [10]. The real costs are likely to be significantly higher, due to the conservative approach used in the simplified model. Increasing influenza vaccination coverage in Poland to levels similar to those in the UK would likely result in savings to the Polish economy in excess of PLN 58 million.
There are multiple factors influencing the decision not to vaccinate. In Poland, the lack of knowledge and awareness among healthcare professionals and general public and low trust in public health campaigns contribute to the problem. Difficulty in accessing...

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