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Experts suggest getting flu and Covid-19 double jab to avoid co-infection

Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Apr 13, 2022

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With the winter flu season fast approaching and an expected Covid-19 fifth wave, some health experts have suggested that South Africans get a double jab of the flu and Covid-19 vaccine.

During a media briefing on Wednesday, Dr Thinus Marais, African Zone medical head of Sanofi Pasteur, said that co-infection of flu and Covid-19 could result in more severe disease.

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“Flu vaccination is critical, considering the possible co-circulation of both the flu and Sars-CoV-2 viruses in the absence of a hard lockdown.

“It is important to remember that the flu vaccine will not prevent Covid-19 and vice versa; therefore, it is important to ensure that you are vaccinated against both,” said Marais.

In his presentation, Marais made reference to a study conducted in the UK in 2020. The study found that co-infection with flu and Covid-19 was associated with a two times higher risk of death and intensive care unit admission, compared with Covid-19 infection alone.

Last week, the City of Cape Town said that clinics will be offering flu shots and Covid-19 vaccines to the elderly and other vulnerable people who may be at risk of developing severe disease.

South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccination programme initially recommended a 14-day interval between an individual receiving a Covid-19 vaccine and any other vaccination; however, the Department of Health said in February that this is no longer required.

“Covid-19 vaccines may therefore be administered with any other vaccines including live attenuated vaccines. It is recommended that the Covid-19 vaccine be administered to the left arm and the additional vaccine be administered to the right arm,” said the department.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), flu causes up to 650 000 deaths globally each year. In South Africa, more than 11 000 flu-related deaths are recorded annually and almost half of those who catch severe flu need hospitalisation.

Marais said that due to non-pharmaceutical interventions implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic such as mask wearing and social distancing, the numbers of flu cases reported in 2020 and 2021 were reduced.

“The flu virus remains unpredictable, and experts expect a resurgence of cases as population movements and habits return to normal,” he said.

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While all age groups can be infected with both the Covid-19 virus and flu virus, groups who are at a higher risk for severe disease and death from co-infection include the elderly, people with chronic medical conditions, and those with immunosuppressive conditions.

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