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Flu shot and Covid-19 vaccine double jab encouraged during winter season

Picture: Ted S Warren/AP

Picture: Ted S Warren/AP

Published Jun 9, 2022

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South Africa is in the middle of the winter influenza (flu) season and a rise in flu cases has led experts to encourage people — especially at-risk groups — to get the double Covid-19 and flu jab.

Annually, flu causes up to 650 000 deaths worldwide, with 11 000 flu-related deaths recorded in South Africa.

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Flu is a respiratory tract infection caused by an influenza virus infection that can spread quickly, causing seasonal epidemics.

Medical head of Sanofi South Africa, Dr Lourens Terblanche, says there appears to be a general increase in cases of flu, both locally and abroad.

“While non-pharmaceutical interventions like lock downs, social distancing and mask wearing related to the Covid-19 pandemic afforded less opportunity for the influenza virus to circulate, the easing of these mandatory restrictions may facilitate a surge in flu cases,” he said.

A similar trend has been evident with data from Australia, Terblanche pointed out, where cases tripled in the last few weeks of April.

It is estimated that in both Australia and South Africa, the 2022 flu season may be longer and more severe.

The Department of Health has indicated that the flu vaccine may now be given at the same time as a Covid-19 vaccine, with each being given in a different arm.

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Previous recommendations said a person needed to wait 14 days between vaccinations. Now, people can get double vaccinated with the Covid-19 shot and the flu jab.

Over the weekend, the Department of Health said that people aged 50 years and older will be eligible to receive an additional booster dose of Pfizer vaccine.

This additional booster is available to those who received their last Covid-19 vaccination of either Pfizer or J&J at least four months prior.

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“In SA, annual flu vaccination is recommended for individuals at high risk of complications or severe outcomes of influenza. The vaccine is however available for any individual from the age of six months to help prevent influenza infection,” said Terblanche.

Groups targeted as high risk in the Department of Health’s 2022 flu vaccination campaign are healthcare workers, persons aged 65 or older, those with cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease and people living with HIV, as well as pregnant women.

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