In 1997 the Netherlands established an infrastructure for influenza vaccination called the Dutch National Influenza Prevention Program (NPG). Aim is to protect people from illness and death due to influenza.
Influenza (also known as flu) is caused by an infection with the influenza virus. The course of this infection can be mild and even subclinical. The typical clinical picture is that after an incubation period of one to three days, body temperature suddenly rises; this is often accompanied by shivering. Within a few hours this turns into general malaise and headache, muscle pain (especially in the limbs), and airway symptoms such as sore throat and coughing. The most important and frequent complications are primary viral infections (such as pneumonia and myocarditis) and secondary bacterial infections (such as otitis and pneumonia). Influenza causes 100-2000 deaths annually, mostly among elderly. Most cases of influenza are relatively mild, but nevertheless lead to considerable work absenteeism.
Because the influenza virus is continuously evolving, infection does not confer the infected person with lifelong protection, as is often the case with other infectious diseases. This is why there are annual flu epidemics, and why the flu vaccine has to be adapted every year and risk groups vaccinated every year. Vaccinated people normally develop a protective amount of antibody within two to three weeks.
On advice of the Dutch Health Council people at high risk for complications of influenza are personally invited to see their family doctor for a free of charge vaccination.
As of 2008, the target group of the NPG programme comprises: