KOLKATA: Even as the demand for Covid vaccines has come down to a trickle, some private hospitals in Kolkata are witnessing a sudden spurt in the number of people, especially senior citizens, seeking the influenza vaccine. At least two hospitals have seen a jump in recipients from nil to around 100 a month.
Long recommended as an annual precautionary dose for the elderly, the flu vaccine acts as a shield against influenza and prevents it from leading to pneumonia that claims a large number of senior citizens. But it is not widely taken here , say doctors.
"After the third Covid wave, an awareness seems to have grown about the influenza vaccine and its necessity. Many are asking for it and getting inoculated while previously we had to ask patients to take it but not many would be convinced. The pandemic seems to have acted as a catalyst and changed perceptions about vaccines. It's a positive development and will help save lives," said CMRI Hospital pulmonology director Raja Dhar. "A vaccine-consciousness seems to have emerged post-Covid and even doctors are now recommending vaccines more often," he added.
CMRI is now administering around 70 flu vaccines a month. Till four months ago, the number would vary between nil and 10.
Peerless Hospital has seen a 40% jump in demand for flu vaccines since the third Covid wave. "We are about to run out of stock and expect fresh stocks in December. The majority of recipients are the elderly who suffer from comorbidities and have low immunity. It seems after Covid they have realized the need for protection against flu. Several hospitals are buying the vaccine from us," said Peerless Hospital CEO Sudipta Mitra.
Demand up for pneumonia vaccine too
Private hospitals in the city are witnessing a rise in demand for the influenza vaccine ever since the third Covid wave receded in March. Several of them have run out of stocks and are buying flu vaccines from others who have them.
Peerless Hospital had acquired its last stock of influenza vaccine in May. "Usually it lasts a year but this time we will run out of stocks by next month," said CEO Sudipta Mitra.
At Medica Superspecialty Hospital, flu inoculations almost doubled from 40 in August to 76 in October.
The numbers are up at RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS), too. "Generally, we administer around 50 to 60 a month. Now, it has gone up to around 90 per month," said Narayana Hospitals zonal head R Venkatesh.
AMRI Hospitals gave the flu shot to its health workers earlier this year. "We don't administer it to patients but have been offering it to all our employees," said CEO Rupak Barua.
Medicine stores across the city, too, have seen a sudden rise in demand for both influenza and pneumonia vaccines, said Sajal Ganguly, general secretary of the Bengal Chemists' and Druggists' Association.
"The sales have been rising steadily since last March. Along with influenza vaccines, those for pneumonia, too, are selling briskly. In fact, the rise in the sale of influenza vaccines has been sharper at some retail points," said Ganguly.
Flu vaccines use a deactivated or weakened version of the influenza virus to develop antibodies in the body to fight flu.
The retail price of the vaccines vary between Rs 1,000 and Rs 3,500.