Doctors and pharmacists in France have warned that covid, flu and bronchiolitis are “hitting hard” this year due to the low acceptance of vaccines. Hospitals in Paris are reporting overwhelming numbers of patients.
The seasonal flu is spreading across the country, within an already tense health context of constant covid and epidemic levels of bronchiolitis, health authorities said this week.
Last week saw an “increase in all flu indicators,” Santé publish France said. This trend affected all age groups, but was more marked in children under 15 years of age.
Philippe Besset, pharmacist and president of the professional union FSPF, he told BFMTV:: “It will be very hard this year. It is essential to renew the vaccines ”.
Low vaccine uptake
Earlier this week, the two major pharmaceutical unions warned that uptake of seasonal flu vaccines is “significantly behind” compared to last year. This is particularly true for the highest-risk groups, the figures show.
These groups include people 65 and older, people with chronic illnesses, and pregnant women.
Besset said: “It’s kind of catastrophic this year.” He suggested that the slow uptake could be due to “general fatigue towards vaccination, even among those for whom it is most needed.”
He said: “It can probably be explained by a kind of weariness of the population from always hearing about vaccines. We are coming out of several waves of Covid… and it is becoming more and more complicated”.
He added that it would be very difficult to catch up with such a delay without a “meaningful communication campaign.”
Hospitals under pressure due to flu, bronchiolitis and Covid
The number of seasonal flu cases remains relatively low in France. It is not, for now, putting the health system at significant risk. However, the number of cases has skyrocketed and is up by two-thirds this week compared to last.
The number of people admitted to hospital emergency care due to the flu increased 39% last week.
Hospitals are already dealing with an epidemic of bronchiolitis, which is hitting babies hardest, and is at record levels this year. Hospitalizations for bronchiolitis are “at very high levels,” said the Hôpitaux de Paris (AP-HP).
The cases of bronchiolitis represent “half of the hospitalizations after emergency admission among children under two years of age”, for the third consecutive week, the AP-HP specified. In total, 6,882 children under the age of two were treated by emergency services in the week of November 14-20, an increase of 24% compared to the previous week.
Of these, 2,552 children were hospitalized. In the past two weeks, hospitalizations and emergency care admissions hit a “new 10-year high,” the AP-HP said.
Covid has also seen an uptick, with a rise in hospitalizations in recent days.
Paris hospitals report being ‘overwhelmed’
In Paris, which is always particularly affected by health crises, hospitals have already begun to report “overflow” in the face of this triple threat.
Professor Rémi Salomon, president of the AP-HP medical commission, said “too many patients are arriving” and “not enough staff to receive them or keep the beds open.”
He said emergency care units were becoming “overwhelmed once again, due to the viruses that are circulating.” He said that in addition to Covid, bronchiolitis in infants and flu in the elderly were “strong” this year.
In a statement, the general director of the AP-HP, Nicolás Revel, and Professor Salomon wrote that “the emergency services of the AP-HP have seen difficulties in recent days” in finding beds.
This is causing a “high level of stress among healthcare personnel, who are in a situation where they know they cannot provide adequate care,” Professor Solomon told FranceInter.
Since 2019, there are 10% fewer healthcare workers at the 38 AP-HP hospitals, and 16% of beds were forced to close in October. This is twice as many closures as would have been seen pre-Covid.
Santé publish France said: “In this context, it is strongly recommended that people at risk and health professionals get a flu shot without delay.”
national health plan
Two weeks ago, Health Minister François Braun unveiled a national emergency plan, dubbed ORSAN, to offer support during exceptionally busy health situations.
He said: “[This will] help strengthen resources for the ARS (Agences régionales de santé) and allow hospitals to focus now on this particularly acute problem.”
It comes as the minister also announced a 400 million euro plan to help pediatric services.