Poland seeks more flu vaccines amid shortage during pandemic

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Polish government is trying to secure more flu vaccines from international producers amid a national shortage fueled by higher demand during the coronavirus pandemic, Poland's health minister said Tuesday.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said that Poland generally has very low flu vaccinations rates and is seeing a vaccine shortage now because orders for this fall and winter were based on last year's demand.

Niedzielski said in an interview on Polish commercial station Radio Zet that his ministry held a meeting on Monday with representatives of key vaccine suppliers to explore the possibility of getting more vaccine shipments to Poland.

During the last flu season, about 1.5 million people, or some 4% of Poland's population of 38 million were vaccinated for the flu, the health minister said. Some 100,000 unused vaccines must be disposed of, he said.

“The vaccine procurement mechanism is always based on the previous year,” Niedzielski said. “Unfortunately, we are in a way trapped by the low vaccination rate of last year.”

The low flu vaccination rates in Poland are the result of wide distrust in pharmaceutical companies and the vaccinations.

Health experts are stressing that the seasonal influenza vaccine is especially important this year because reducing the number of flu cases would help preserve medical resources for treating COVID-19 patients. They say that many of the symptoms of influenza and COVID-19 are similar and it can be difficult at first to determine which infection is making someone ill.

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