An elderly man sits at the "Viktualienmarkt" daily food market, during the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Munich, Germany, March 18, 2020. (ANDREAS GEBERT / REUTERS)
COPENHAGEN – Vaccination continues to be one of the most effective tools in combating both influenza and COVID-19, and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe urges all those eligible to get their influenza and COVID-19 booster shots as soon as possible.
With COVID-19 and seasonal influenza co-circulating, the health of vulnerable people — including the elderly, the immunocompromised, pregnant women and newborns – is at greater risk.
Dr Hans Kluge,
WHO Regional Director
"With COVID-19 and seasonal influenza co-circulating, the health of vulnerable people — including the elderly, the immunocompromised, pregnant women and newborns – is at greater risk," said WHO Regional Director Dr. Hans Kluge said at a press conference here on Monday.
Since early Sept, regional cases of COVID-19 have tripled, according to WHO Europe, and in the second week of Oct, the European Region accounted for nearly 60 percent of new global cases and 42 percent of new global deaths.
ALSO READ: Türkiye faces looming wave of COVID-19 infections
"This is not a time to relax," Kluge said. "In the past month, we have also seen an early spike in seasonal influenza cases, leading now to increased positivity in patients hospitalized with severe acute respiratory infections."
However, according to Kluge, the surge has not led to either the previously seen levels of severe disease, as deaths and intensive care unit admissions have only seen minor increases, or to the crippling effects previously seen on economic or social life.
"We must continue to do our utmost to prevent infections, protect the vulnerable and prepare our health systems to manage multiple threats," he said.
On the occasion of World Polio Day (Oct 24), which also marks twenty years of keeping the WHO European Region free of indigenous wild polio, Kluge noted a parallel since the region was declared polio-free in 2002.
READ MORE: WHO, ECDC say Europe likely entering another COVID wave
"Vaccines are safe and vaccines work. For polio, as for COVID-19 and influenza, vaccines can and do save lives. The other main policy responses for COVID-19 are continued surveillance and securing access to antivirals for at-risk populations."