Virologist and immunologist: Vaccinate flu first and wait for COVID-19
World Insight with Tian Wei

The world is racing against time to find vaccines and drugs for COVID-19. For this goal, China has made arduous efforts in developing vaccines, adopting multiple technological approaches, and pulling national resources to fast track the process. By far, some vaccine candidates have started phase three clinical trials, with China contributing to the frontrunners.

But the flu season is right around the corner. As public health officials look to fall and winter, the specter of a new surge of COVID-19 gives them chills. There is a scenario they dread even more: a severe flu season, resulting in a "twindemic." So questions are frequently asked, should people get a flu shot during COVID-19?

Dr. Gao Fu, world-renowned virologist and immunologist, and director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control & Prevention, is encouraging it when he sat down with CGTN anchor Tian Wei.

"I am still encouraging people to vaccinate to be vaccinated with the flu vaccine. That's a big challenge for public health at the moment. Because we are approaching the autumn, we are predicting we will have a situation or scenario of COVID-19 mixed with flu."

The WHO has so far estimated that the crude mortality ratio for COVID-19 is between 3 and 4 percent, while mortality is usually well below 0.1 percent for seasonal influenza. During the 2018-2019 flu seasons, "influenza-pneumonia" resulted in nearly 500,000 hospitalizations, among the leading causes of death in the U.S. In any case, experts suggest getting a flu shot – to better protect against a perfect storm of influenza and coronavirus as we await a COVID-19 vaccination.

"We still don't know safety and efficacy. But for the flu, at least we know it's safe and with some percentage of efficacy and also because of the years, and we know it works and the quality control is good. So for those three major factors for any vaccines, I encourage people to vaccinate flu first and wait for the COVID-19."

Meanwhile, Dr. Gao argued about herd immunity, which has emerged as a controversial topic involves deliberately allowing the coronavirus to spread to build up population resistance more quickly while protecting the most vulnerable.

But some countries are insisting on moving towards coronavirus policies that are in line with a "herd immunity" strategy.


"To achieve herd immunity, you can either through the natural infection," said Dr. Gao, "but also you can say that, on the other hand, you can have it by the vaccination."

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for coronavirus response, said during a media briefing in Geneva last week that "herd immunity" is typically discussed in the context of vaccinations, not as a response to a pandemic, echoing Dr. Gao' opinion.

Also, as herd immunity happens when enough people have developed immunity to a particular infectious disease that the risk of further community transmission is either eliminated or significantly reduced, it requires a certain percentage of the population.

And the estimation from Dr. Gao is 70 percent. "From current data, for our current transmissibility, we estimate we might, I use the word might, we might need a 70 percent."

World Insight with Tian Wei is an international platform for debate and intelligent discussion. It is the meeting point of both the highly influential and rising voices, facilitated by host Tian Wei. It provides nutrition to form your own thoughts and ideas through a 45-minute live debate and interviews.

Schedule: Monday-Saturday

Time (GMT): 1415, 2015

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