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4 flu vaccine myths debunked

Influenza is a vaccine-preventable illness, and the benefits and simplicity of prevention outweigh the complications of illness later. Picture: AP

Influenza is a vaccine-preventable illness, and the benefits and simplicity of prevention outweigh the complications of illness later. Picture: AP

Published Apr 29, 2022

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New Delhi - Commonly known as “the flu”, influenza is a seasonal viral respiratory infection that affects all age groups and spreads easily from person to person.

Dr Rajiv Kovil, consultant diabetologist at Dr Kovils Diabetes Care Centres in Mumbai said: “In Mumbai, of all the adults we see with influenza, 60% of cases with mild to severe complications, had chronic conditions.

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“Influenza vaccines are the safest and most effective option available to avoid such infection. Getting an annual influenza vaccination is important not just for children but adults also, especially those with underlying conditions, in consultation with their doctor.”

Commenting on the need for influenza immunisation, Dr Jejoe Karankumar, the director of medical affairs at Abbott said: “At Abbott, we are committed to helping people stay healthy at every stage of their lives. Raising awareness about the need for annual influenza vaccination not just for children, but also at-risk adults, is key to ensuring greater protection against influenza infection across the population.

“Influenza is a vaccine-preventable illness, and the benefits and simplicity of prevention outweigh the complications of illness later.”

Due to the lack of awareness and misconceptions around influenza and vaccinations, the flu is often neglected and passed off as a common cold.

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Here are four common myths about flu vaccines debunked to help you and your loved ones stay healthy this year.

Myth: Influenza is not that serious, so it isn’t necessary to get the vaccine.

Fact: Often mistaken as a common cold, flu is neglected. However, influenza is a serious condition that can lead to hospitalisation, especially among at-risk individuals, such as those with co-morbidities like diabetes and hypertension.

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Even healthy people can get the flu, while also putting at risk the people they may come in contact with daily - children, the elderly and pregnant women.

Hence a flu shot is crucial not just for oneself but to ensure layered protection for our loved ones and society at large.

Myth: Flu vaccine is only for children.

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Fact: The annual influenza vaccinations are recommended to people across all stages of life. Influenza vaccination, in addition to the benefits it offers for children, has proven useful for adults, especially those with co-morbidities.

For example, according to research, flu shots reduce influenza or pneumonia-related hospitalisations for diabetics by 80%. Hence, getting the flu shot is key to reducing the risk of influenza-related complications in adults as well.

Myth: I already got vaccinated against Covid-19, so I am safe.

Fact: Covid-19 vaccination does not protect against the flu or vice versa, as each vaccine is specific for the virus against which it was designed.

Since vaccines do not offer cross-protection between influenza and Covid-19, it is important to get both in a timely manner.

Flu vaccination is the primary and single most cost-effective method of preventing influenza and can prevent 70-90% of influenza-specific illness among healthy adults.

People are also advised to get the annual flu shot two weeks before their region’s flu season. The schedule can be discussed with one’s medical practitioner.

Myth: You do not need to get a flu shot if you already got it in the past year.

Fact: Getting the flu shot every year is important to ensure optimal, sustained protection against rapidly evolving influenza viruses and variants.

Since immune protection from the flu vaccine declines over time, vaccines are constantly updated to adapt to the variant of the virus currently in circulation during the year’s flu season.

As the influenza strains mutate every year, these annual flu shots are in accordance with WHO recommendations and guidelines, based on continuous global surveillance updates and therefore offer the best protection.

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