The influenza season usually occurs between May and September. Picture: Pexels
The influenza season usually occurs between May and September. Picture: Pexels

Flu vaccinations are essential during Covid-19 times

By Lifestyle Reporter Time of article published Jun 3, 2020

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The flu season is officially underway and while coronavirus is bringing the world to a standstill, it is important to remember that flu can be deadly too, which is why it is important to have a flu vaccine.  

Every year there is a debate about flu vaccinations, yet up to 11 800 people die from illness associated with seasonal influenza, and is it a common cause of severe acute respiratory illness requiring treatment in hospital. 

Influenza, commonly known as the “flu”, is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by influenza viruses. There are three types of seasonal influenza viruses – A, B and C. In SA, the influenza season usually occurs between May and September

Influenza viruses are also an important cause of pneumonia or lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) and approximately 8-10 percent of all patients with pneumonia test positive for influenza. 

According to the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) certain individuals are at a higher risk of severe influenza-related disease and death, including:
  • The elderly
  • HIV-infected individuals 
  • Pregnant women
Influenza infection may cause worsening in control of diabetes, pulmonary (eg asthma) or cardiovascular disease. For this reason, people with underlying chronic medical conditions or comorbidities are also at high risk of influenza complications, often resulting in hospitalisation and even death. 

The highest rates of influenza-associated hospitalisation are in those aged over 65 years, HIV-infected individuals and children under five years (in particular children under one year). 

The South African Department of Health is anticipating significantly increased demand for flu vaccination this year and has published guidelines on influenza vaccination for 2020 that prioritise supply to the following vulnerable groups in order of priority: 
  • Health care workers
  • Individuals over the age of 65 years
  • People with cardiovascular disease (including chronic heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes), and chronic lung disease (including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Pregnant women
  • People living with HIV and aids
Bonitas Medical Fund encourages you to be vaccinated against seasonal flu as the vaccination is the most effective method for prevention and control of influenza infection. It may also reduce the number of people who get severe diseases such as bronchopneumonia, hospital admission and mortality

Although this message goes out every year, one wonders why many people don’t get vaccinated. Bonitas Medical Fund says "there are a number of reasons people argue against the vaccine, including: ‘I don’t get flu’, ‘the vaccine doesn’t work’, ‘it will hurt my arm’ or ‘the vaccine will give me flu’. However, there are very good clinical reasons why you should."

The flu vaccine is not active against the novel coronavirus and will not protect you from becoming infected, it will however, offer protection against the influenza virus. 

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