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Poland Seeks More Flu Vaccines         09/22 06:06

   

   WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- The Polish government is trying to secure more flu 
vaccines from international producers amid a national shortage fueled by higher 
demand during the coronavirus pandemic, Poland's health minister said Tuesday.

   Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said Poland generally has very low flu 
vaccinations rates and is seeing a vaccine shortage now because orders for this 
fall and winter were based on last year's demand. He told Radio Zet that his 
ministry met Monday with key vaccine suppliers to explore the possibility of 
getting more vaccine shipments.

   During the last flu season, only about 1.5 million people, or 4% of Poland's 
population of 38 million people, were vaccinated for the flu, he said. Some 
100,000 vaccines went used.

   The low flu vaccination rates in Poland are the result of wide distrust in 
pharmaceutical companies and in vaccinations.

   During the swine flu outbreak 10 years ago, Poland was the only country 
worldwide to reject the vaccines over safety fears and distrust in drug 
companies. When that outbreak proved not as deadly as some initially feared, 
many Poles felt their government was vindicated.

   But fears of COVID-19 have created an unprecedented demand for flu vaccines. 
The Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported Tuesday that pharmacies across Poland are 
unable to meet demand and have created waiting lists for future deliveries.

   Tomasz Leleno, spokesman for the Polish Pharmaceutical Chamber, said he 
expects the situation to improve with new deliveries in late September and 
early October.

   Health experts are stressing that the seasonal flu vaccine is especially 
important this year because reducing the number of flu cases helps preserve 
medical resources for treating COVID-19 patients.

   "Both are respiratory illnesses and it's likely that they would put a strain 
on the same parts of the health care system at the same time," the health 
minister of Poland's western neighbor, Germany, said Tuesday.

   Jens Spahn said Germany has ordered 26 million doses of vaccine for this flu 
season, a significant increase compared to the 18-19 million doses the country 
normally buys.

   "If we manage, together, to get the flu vaccination rate so high that all 26 
million doses are actually used then I'd be a very happy health minister," he 
said.

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