Health insurance funds: more people will be able to get a free flu vaccine for the new season

National Health Insurance Fund has already concluded a contract for the purchase of 240 thousand doses of a four-valent vaccine for the 2024-2025 flu season. This is 55,000 more doses than delivered to treatment institutions last season. Vaccinations paid for by the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund are intended for people at risk. Their number has increased this year: children aged 2-7 will be able to get a free flu vaccine for the first time this autumn.

“Preparation for the upcoming cold season starts very early – as early as February. When procurement procedures are started in advance, manufacturers can plan the need of vaccines and production volumes more rationally. This also helps to reduce the purchase price. This time, a seasonal flu vaccine cost just over EUR 1 million to the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund. The cost per dose has fallen by as much as 28% compared to last year,” Lina Reinartienė, head of Centrally Procured Pharmaceuticals Division of the NHIF, says.

The vaccine is re-manufactured for each flu season and distributed to treatment institutions according to their pre-determined need. The vaccine usually takes 6 to 8 months to be produced and delivered to Lithuania, so the vaccine is expected to reach the country in September. Following the National Programme of Immunoprophylaxis, a four-valent flu vaccine has been purchased for the new flu season as well as for the previous one.

Airborne infections account for the largest share (96.85%) of the morbidity structure of Lithuanian population, with seasonal influenza and acute upper respiratory tract diseases accounting for 98.25% of cases and representing the largest public health burden. Epidemiologists constantly emphasize that vaccination against influenza is vital to protect population from severe forms of a disease and complications. This vaccine is especially relevant for people at risk, for whom influenza is much more dangerous and can even be fatal.

“Seasonal influenza vaccine, paid for by Compulsory Health Insurance Fund, is available to people at risk: people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, people living in social care and nursing homes, people with chronic diseases, and employees of health care institutions, who are at highest direct risk of getting influenza from interacting with sick people. Also, this year, a new feature has been introduced: a reimbursable flu vaccine will be extended to pre-school and younger school-age children,” L. Reinartienė says.

By implementing recommendations of the World Health Organization, it was decided that parents will be able to protect their children aged 2-7 years (inclusive) against influenza free of charge from this autumn. This age limit was chosen because, unlike in other European countries, children in Lithuania start attending pre-school later than in other European countries, which is when the number of contacts and infections with the influenza virus increases. In countries that have previously enrolled children in influenza risk groups, increased influenza vaccination of children has been associated with reduction in adult morbidity.

NHIF reminds that that all seasonal influenza vaccines are produced according to antigenic composition recommended by WHO for each year, and that their efficacy and safety have been validated during vaccine registration procedures. This vaccine should be administered by your family doctor.

(Freepic photo)

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