July 15, 2020 / 10:10 AM / a month ago

Fearing autumn COVID wave, EU urges earlier, broader flu vaccination

BRUSSELS, July 15 (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Wednesday European Union states should launch earlier and broader vaccination campaigns against flu this year to reduce the risk of simultaneous influenza and COVID-19 outbreaks in the autumn.

The EU executive wants to prevent the risk of hospitals being again overwhelmed by a surge of patients, as happened at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe in March and April.

“Simultaneous outbreaks of seasonal influenza and COVID-19, would place a considerable strain on health systems,” it said in a document which lists actions needed to prepare for a possible large second wave of COVID-19 in the autumn.

It called on EU governments to bring forward flu vaccinations to the summer. People in Europe usually get their annual flu shots in the autumn.

Brussels also urged states this year to buy more shots against influenza and increase the number of people who are vaccinated.

It also called on states to test more people for coronavirus infections and set up efficient contact tracing systems.

The Commission wants governments to use contact tracing apps which are interoperable across EU borders. But at this stage only ten of the 27 EU states have launched such applications. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; editing by Kate Abnett)

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