COVID-19: To Flu Shot Or Not To Flu Shot?


Flu season is on its way. In light of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, experts have advised that vulnerable populations should be vaccinated against the flu this season. Here are the facts. 

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COVID-19 And Influenza

Winter is well on its way. We become more susceptible to viral infection as the days get shorter and colder. And, while most of us have a book of home remedies to cure ‘the snotties’, the influenza virus is more dangerous than you might think. The National Institute for Communicable Disease in South Africa records between 7 000 and 12 000 seasonal influenza-associated deaths every year.

In the face of the novel Coronavirus, which has infected 62 South Africans as of Monday, 16 March 2020, preparing for flu season is more imperative than ever. Babies, young children, the elderly and those with heart disease and diabetes are especially vulnerable to the influenza virus during colder months. And, as we know, these vulnerable populations are similarly susceptible to contracting COVID-19 with complications, such as double pneumonia.

Medical practitioners therefore confer that if you fall into one of these vulnerable categories, having yourself vaccinated against the flu is one of the best ways to avoid contracting both viral influenza and COVID-19. However, here are a few important things to consider before getting the jab:

How Does The Flu Vaccine Work?

Each year, two influenza vaccine strains are developed. These vaccines are engineered to match the most prominent flu strains during the season. Two weeks after receiving the jab, you should begin to build up an immunity to these strains. However, you may still fall ill. But, studies show that the severity and duration of your illness may be reduced as a result of having been vaccinated.

Children as young as six months old can receive the flu vaccine. Although, all children aged between six months to nine years old must receive two doses of the vaccine, at least one month apart. This will ultimately boost their immune response. Children who suffer from respiratory illnesses should receive the flu vaccine, as it can help prevent severe complications from the flu, such as pneumonia.

In people older than 65, the flu vaccine also has many benefits. It is especially beneficial for those who have had a recent heart episode, those who have low immune response or other respiratory illnesses. For younger adults, getting vaccinated can save on missing out work days, paying for doctors bills and expensive over-the-counter medication.

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Benefits

It is estimated that it can cost up to R15 000 a night for a stay in an Intensive Care Unit. This sure is a hefty price to pay, especially if you are not covered by a medical aid or a hospital plan. The flu vaccine can reduce your chance of being hospitalised for an extended stay by up to 50%. For parents with sickly children, being immunised can prevent passing on the illness to them. It also allows you to keep playing super mom or dad, all the while staying afloat at work. Caregivers, nurses and teachers may also consider it wise to get the vaccine.

Overall, while getting the flu vaccine cannot entirely prevent seasonal infections, it can reduce your recovery time and the possibility of being hospitalised. This saves you valuable time and money. Plus, you may actually be able to enjoy winter for a change!

Side-Effects

Common side-effects of the flu vaccine include:

  • Pain, redness and swelling in the area where you were immunised.
  • Drowsiness, tiredness or irritability.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Low grade fever of 37 – 38°C.

In addition to these side effects, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary season to season. The vaccine can prove less effective if the strain has not been well matched to the most common virus strain of the season. The vaccine is also known to be less effective in combating certain sub-types of flu, such as Influenza A (H3N2).

Not all vaccines are suitable for vegetarians, vegans or others who follow strict dietary specifications for religious reasons. People with an egg allergy are also susceptible to more severe side effects. Always consult with your doctor before receiving the flu vaccine to ensure that the ingredients do not contradict your dietary lifestyle.

Where To Get It?

Most large pharmacy stores offer the flu vaccine, which should be administered by a registered nurse. Check out these budget-friendly pharmacies in the city to get your flu jab and any other necessary medications to see you through the flu season without breaking the bank.

Both Dischem and Clicks pharmacies also offer flu vaccines. At Clicks, the flu shot is available for *R69.99, while Dis-Chem offers it for *R87 at their over-the-counter dispensaries. But, their in-house clinics administer the shot free of charge. Certain medical aids cover the cost of the flu vaccine as well.

Stay healthy!

Please note that this article is not intended to replace consultation with a medical professional. We are journalists, not qualified doctors. 

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