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Pernille Jorgensen

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  1. In 2015, a pilot project called “Tailoring Influenza Immunization Programmes (TIP FLU)” was launched in selected clinics in Kaunas (the second largest city in Lithuania) with the aim to increase vaccination uptake among pregnant women. Despite evidence of influenza vaccine effectiveness and safety during pregnancy, uptake of influenza vaccination in Lithuania among pregnant women has been very low (<0.5%) since its introduction in 2010. Following studies on knowledge, attitudes and behaviours regarding influenza and influenza vaccination among pregnant women and their health care providers (HCPs), different interventions were developed, including educational seminars for HCPs on benefits of maternal influenza vaccination, information materials for pregnant women, and (social) media coverage on the topic. The aim was to increase: 1) demand for influenza vaccination among pregnant women and 2) health care providers recommending maternal influenza vaccination through building a positive environment for maternal influenza vaccination. In 2014/15 influenza vaccination was <0.5%. By 2016/17, following the 2-year pilot in Kaunas, the number of pregnant women who received influenza vaccination increased to 22.8% in one of the pilot clinics in 2016/2017 with an average of 4.5% in the pilot area overall. The success of this project was ensured by the active engagement of a number of local public health institutions, HCPs, and national policy- and decision-makers. The inclusion of maternal influenza vaccination into the newly published national recommendations for antenatal care and on the standard pregnancy card in 2017 is anticipated to further contribute to an increase in influenza vaccination for pregnant women in Lithuania.
  2. This winter, influenza activity in the European Region started to increase earlier than in recent years. Influenza A(H3N2) virus represented about 98% of influenza A viruses detected and typed so far. The distribution of viruses may change over the course of a winter, and so it is currently unclear whether or not the predominant virus will remain the same for the duration of the winter. So far this influenza season in the European Region, circulating A(H3N2) viruses are antigenically similar to the vaccine strain. Early monitoring of vaccine effectiveness in Scandinavia suggests that levels of effectiveness are similar to previous years. While vaccination against influenza reduces the risk of infection and hospitalization, it is not 100% effective. Therefore health providers should preferentially suspect and treat severe influenza in the elderly and other risk groups, including considering the use of influenza-specific antiviral medicines even in patients who have been vaccinated. The majority of recently circulating influenza viruses tested were found to be susceptible to the neuraminidase inhibitor class of antiviral medications. Pooled analysis of data from 19 European Union/European Economic Area countries or regions reporting to the European Monitoring of Excess Mortality for Public Health project indicated that excess all-cause mortality seems to have been increasing among the elderly in recent weeks, notably in France and Portugal. This may be due to influenza and, for some countries, the extremely cold weather. However, the observed increase in excess mortality is prone to uncertainty due to delayed adjustment and should be interpreted with caution. For more information on the influenza situation in Europe and the World please visit: Flu News Europe https://flunewseurope.org/ WHO global influenza updates http://www.who.int/influenza/surveillance_monitoring/updates/en