Flu season, which typically falls between April and September in South Africa each year, is likely to coincide or overlap with the anticipated third wave of Covid-19. Picture: Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio
Flu season, which typically falls between April and September in South Africa each year, is likely to coincide or overlap with the anticipated third wave of Covid-19. Picture: Pexels / Andrea Piacquadio

Why it’s important to get vaccinated against the flu this winter

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Mar 31, 2021

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Flu season, which typically falls between April and September in South Africa each year, is likely to coincide or overlap with the anticipated third wave of Covid-19.

“The flu shot is not effective against Covid-19, but will help protect against the flu which can weaken the immune system and lower your defence against Covid-19 infection.

“It is especially important for those who have a co-morbidity or chronic condition, such as asthma,” says Clicks Pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman.

“It is also an important conservation measure for reducing the burden on health-care resources during the pandemic.”

“The flu shot is not effective against Covid-19, but will help protect against the flu which can weaken the immune system and lower your defence against Covid-19 infection. It is especially important for those who have a co-morbidity or chronic condition, such as asthma,” says Abdurahman.

“It is also an important conservation measure for reducing the burden on health-care resources during the pandemic.”

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, seasonal flu kills between 100 000 and 600 000 people globally, with about 11 500 deaths in South Africa. About 50% of those deaths are among the elderly, and about 30% in HIV-infected people.

With the Covid vaccine being the main concern now, should you still have a flu vaccine in 2021? Dr Morgan Mkhatshwa, Head of Operations at Bonitas Medical recommends you do.

“Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of influenza illness, hospitalisation and death. Not only will flu vaccinations reduce the risk of getting flu but it is an important conservation measure for scarce health-care resources which remains a concern with the ongoing the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The flu vaccine should be given sufficiently early to provide protection for the coming winter. A protective antibody response takes about 2 weeks to develop. As there is limited evidence on the safety and effectiveness of receiving these vaccines simultaneously.” Mkhatshwa recommends waiting at least 14 days between having the Covid-19 and flu vaccinations.

South Africans in high risk groups should take steps to ensure they receive the flu vaccine and the Covid vaccine when it becomes available to the public, as this will provide them with optimal protection against severe illness and/or hospitalisation during the approaching winter months, says Dr Lungi Nyathi, Managing Executive: Clinical Risk and Advisory of AfroCentric Group.

“Although getting a flu vaccine will not protect against Covid-19, there is still a benefit to being vaccinated against the flu: the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the impact of related morbidity and hospitalisation, which is useful as the country deals with the Covid-19 pandemic,” Nyathi says.

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