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With cases of COVID-19 continuing to make daily headlines, concerns about flu season may be overshadowed.
We’re all washing and sanitizing our hands, wearing a mask, and are physical distancing … is the flu shot really necessary this year? The answer is: YES! Getting your flu shot is especially important this year, not only to reduce your risk from flu but it will also help to conserve scarce health care resources.
The worry is that with the onset of flu season, peaks of flu and COVID-19 cases at the same time could rapidly overwhelm our hospital system. Unlike COVID-19, the flu is a familiar foe, and a safe and effective vaccine is available every year.
Since flu season and COVID-19 will be overlapping, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa has recommended that everyone, in particular those who are at high risk of developing flu and flu-related complications, receive a flu vaccine ahead of flu season this year.
So, are you at high risk for flu and its complications? If you are 65 or older, pregnant, or have asthma, bronchiectasis, cardiomyopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic renal disease, coronary artery disease, diabetes (Type 1 and 2), or HIV; then you are at high risk.
And, if you get sick with the flu, are you at higher risk of contracting COVID-19? There is little data on how flu affects the risk of contracting COVID-19. In general, getting sick with one virus, like the flu, doesn’t affect being infected with another, like the virus that causes COVID-19.
Is it possible to have COVID-19 and the flu at the same time? It is too soon to tell how common such co-infections will be. However, it is likely that dual or consecutive infection causes more severe disease, as the same site of infection is involved. COVID-19 and the flu both target the lung: So, if the lungs are damaged by one disease and the other one comes along and damages it even further, you can get into trouble faster.
When is the best time to get your flu vaccine and will it prevent you from contracting the flu? In South Africa, before the end of April, or as soon as the vaccine becomes available. However, if you’ve missed this period, the vaccine can still be taken at any time during the Winter season. It will take the body about 2 weeks to develop antibodies against the virus and is available from your GP, pharmacy, or clinic.
Effectiveness can range from about 20% to 60% depending on how accurately scientists have predicted the flu strains. However, even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, it may make the illness less serious should you get infected.
Are there any side-effects from having the flu vaccine? The side-effects are usually not serious and will generally disappear in a day or two. The most common side effects are mild pain, redness and swelling of the skin at the injection site. Other possible side-effects include fever, feeling unwell, headaches, muscle and joint pain.
Is it possible to get the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time? No, COVID-19 vaccines should be given alone with at least 14 days before, or after you get any other vaccines.
As a Fedhealth member, you and your dependents have a FREE flu vaccination benefit that is paid from Risk, and not from your Savings or MediVault and Wallet.
Stay safe everyone!
Source: ucsf.edu, cfr.org, henryford.com, cdc.gov, discovery.co.za, fedhealth.co.za
DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.