Pretoria - As the flu season looms, pharmaceutical manufacturers are urging people to ensure they are fully vaccinated against the flu virus and Covid-19.
According to health-care company Sanofi, every season the flu does more damage than most people realise, especially to the most vulnerable groups.
The medical head of Sanofi Africa Zone, Thinus Marais, said even though people had the power to protect against it, most were still needlessly suffering and dying. He said flu was so underestimated yet it seriously affected the lives of millions, entire economies, and society as a whole.
Marais said flu vaccines saved countless lives and had a massive capacity to mutate, so they took directions from the World Health Organization seasonally on the changes in the predominant strain in circulation.
Normally, flu vaccines’ longevity lasted just under six months, hence the need to get shots ahead of the season every year.
Marais said this year it was even more crucial for people to get vaccinated, not only against flu, but also against Covid-19.
As it stands, the country is heading towards uncharted territory as for the past two years, the flu virus has not made its way through the population due to the non-pharmaceutical interventions and restrictions placed on the movement of people by the government.
“In South Africa, we went into the harshest lockdowns ever seen, so under those circumstances for the winter weeks there were no cases recorded of flu, which resulted in restrictions on respiratory viruses in circulation overall.
“When we talk about flu, we urge people to vaccinate before the season, as then the better the odds are of being protected as the season progresses.”
Marais said people stopped getting exposed to flu during the past two years, so the natural immunity that would have been present was no longer there, and the potential of the consequences could not be ignored.
Vulnerable groups such as children under 6 months, pregnant women, the elderly, and people living with HIV and diabetes had the highest chances of experiencing severe illness, hospitalisation and possibly death.
Marais said it was equally important for other groups to vaccinate as the chances of transmission to the most vulnerable still existed.