FLU jabs might not work this winter after the Covid pandemic meant scientists were unable to focus on other viruses and strains of the illness, experts have warned.
After coronavirus infections reached every corner of the world, scientists scrambled to create a vaccine for the newly emerged virus.
But this focus on Covid vaccines has meant that the flu jabs being rolled out could be 'mismatched' to strains circulating and could mean that many people have little to no immunity to the flu.
Head of influenza scientific affairs and World Health Organisation (WHO) lead, at vaccine maker Seqirus, Dr Beverly Taylor, explained that there has been a big drop in labs supplying genetic sequencing data of flu to the WHO.
Seqirus provides Britain with seasonal flu jabs and Dr Beverly said the company saw a 94 per cent drop in the genetic sequence data being provided.
"We could have reduced the opportunity to identify viruses as they emerge. We certainly have reduced the opportunity to look at which viruses would give the best overall protection and the best coverage of all the circulating viruses.
"What we're actually seeing is influenza in geographical pockets, so it’s very difficult for us to tell which one is going to be the winner. We could potentially see a mismatch for at least one of the subtypes. And so that's cause for concern.
"This winter, it’s going to be over 18 months since most of us have seen influenza and there is concern that we'll see a lower level of population immunity", Dr Beverly told The Telegraph.
Back in February, the WHO recommended what needed to be put in this year's flu jab.
However the drop in sequencing meant that the decision of what to put in the vaccine may not have been correctly informed.
Experts also said that strict lockdown rules on flights and border controls, meant that there was a drop of 62 per cent in shipments of flu samples.
There are now fears that a mismatched flu jab – coupled with waning Covid immunity in the winter months, could mean that the NHS is once more overwhelmed.
This is one reason why the NHS is set to roll out booster vaccines and why the government has continued to advise people to come forward for their Covid vaccines.
There has previously been warnings that cases of childhood respiratory viruses could also increase due to Covid lockdowns – again putting pressure on the NHS.
At the peak of the pandemic, many labs were focused on Covid vaccines and the The Academy of Medical Sciences said there is now a lot less information available on the current strain on the flu this year due to this.
They have predicted that this year, there could be between 15,000 and 60,000 deaths due to the flu – compared to a typical year of 10,000 to 30,000 in England.
"In years with mismatch, (vaccine) effectiveness against both infection and severe disease can be markedly reduced, resulting in more severe epidemics", they stated.
The experts previously warned that the main concern is a “triple whammy” of Covid, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – which people have typically caught by the age of two.
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