Flu vaccine demand takes off in India as Covid pandemic raises awareness

Reuters November 24 | Updated on November 24, 2021

Worried parents ask if elderly relatives also need to be given the flu vaccine   -  HS Manjunath

Apollo Hospitals, Fortis Healthcare see higher demand for flu vaccine, including Abbott India’s Influvac

A Covid pandemic-spurred demand for flu vaccines in India has surged since a devastating second wave of Covid-19 brought the nation’s healthcare system to its knees earlier this year.

Vaccinations against influenza are not very common in India due to a lack of awareness, access and steep prices, and they are also not part of the Central government’s universal immunisation programme that includes polio, tuberculosis and Hepatitis B.

Still, more than 1,000 shots were administered at Manipal Hospital’s sites in Bengaluru between July and September, compared with about 3,000 for all of last year, according to the healthcare provider.

“Initially, everyone thought if you got flu vaccines, Covid-19 won’t affect you severely,” said Dr Ram Shankar Mishra, director of internal medicine at the Max Super Specialty Hospital, Saket, in New Delhi.

Mishra added demand has increased, even as Covid-19 vaccinations gather pace.

Apollo Hospitals and Fortis Healthcare are also witnessing higher demand for flu shots, including Abbott India’s imported vaccine, Influvac, the private hospital operators told Reuters.

Sales in its vaccine unit rose 42.3 per cent in the financial year ended March, largely due to the influenza prevention shot, Abbott India disclosed in its annual report.

Children who receive flu vaccine less likely to develop Covid-19 symptoms: Study

Delhi resident Deepak Kapoor, 40, said he got both his children, aged 10 years and aged 8 months, a flu vaccine.

“During the second wave, there was a lot of talk about flu vaccines, our paediatrician recommended this and I read a lot of literature about it online.”

Flu shot administration linked to significantly less likelihood of Covid-19 infection: Study

Some worried parents also asked if their elderly relatives needed to be given the flu vaccine, paediatricians said.

Flu vaccine expensive

However, the price of these shots ranges between ₹1,500 and ₹2,000 making them inaccessible to a large chunk of India’s population. India’s per capita income was $1,900 in 2020, World Bank data showed.

The pandemic-fuelled uptick has triggered hopes that demand would stay strong.

“I will be happy to see if the market grows, and I think it should because in these two years, lot of people have become aware of the influenza vaccine,” said Dr Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases division at the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Published on November 24, 2021

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