In South Africa, and around the world, there's a debate about flu injections, yet up to 11 000 people die from the flu annually. Picture: ANA Pics
In South Africa, and around the world, there's a debate about flu injections, yet up to 11 000 people die from the flu annually. Picture: ANA Pics

In the time of coronavirus, this is why you should get vaccinated against the flu

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Mar 11, 2020

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Flu season is fast approaching and given that recent flu seasons have been rather severe with high rates of infection, hospitalisation and even deaths, greater consumer awareness around the importance of vaccination is much needed.

In South Africa, and around the world, there's a debate about flu injections, yet up to 11 000 people die from the flu annually.

Severe illness caused by influenza affects between 3 and 5 million people worldwide, including over 45 000 South Africans each year. 

Almost 50 percent of affected South Africans require hospitalisation.

While that number may be alarming, many South Africans are still not using flu vaccinations   

Bonitas Medical Fund says there are a number of reasons people don’t get a flu vaccine including:  "I don’t get flu", or erroneously thinking: "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.

Why the flu vaccine is important

The vaccine is necessary every year because the influenza virus – changes each year or is a mutation of an existing one. The injection helps your immune system fight off the virus by producing antibodies - little immune system soldiers that battle the flu virus. 

To protect yourself properly, you and your family should be vaccinated before winter arrives. 

According to the Centre for Disease Control: "A flu shot can’t cause flu. Flu vaccines given with a needle are currently made either with flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are not infectious, or with no flu vaccine viruses at all. The most common side-effects from the shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Serious allergic reactions to flu vaccines are very rare."

“Vaccines against influenza are rigorously tested for their ability to help the body prepare against seasonal influenza strains. This has been further reinforced by decades of broad use around the world in reducing influenza’s circulation and impact,” says Merilynn Steenkamp, Business Unit Head at Sanofi Pasteur in South Africa. 

Due to the mutation of the four viruses that cause seasonal influenza, the vaccines are adapted accordingly to optimise immunity against the specific virus strains each year guided by the World Health Organisation.

“Sanofi Pasteur offers a variety of flu vaccines that are at once adapted to the different needs of indicated populations and which respond to high demand around the world,” says Steenkamp.

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