CAPE TOWN - Health experts say it is safe to get the flu vaccine concurrently with the Covid-19 vaccine but you should at least take a 14-day gap in-between.
“Young children, especially those at day cares, should get their annual flu vaccinations,” says Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of the South African Medical Association (Sama).
“People over the age of 60, those with comorbidities as well as the young children, toddlers we encourage them to get their flu vaccines. If you're planning to get Covid-19 and flu vaccine, have at least two weeks between the vaccines. It would add a lot in assisting people not to get the severe disease and not to get both of those diseases at the same time,” said Coetzee.
With the winter season almost upon us, the Western Cape Department of Health says it will be offering the annual flu vaccination to vulnerable groups in the province.
“The flu vaccine is currently the most effective way to prevent flu, especially for those who are at risk of severe illness. This includes the elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying heart or lung disease or HIV,” Professor Heather Zar said.
Zar, who also worked with the national Department of Health on the guidelines for the flu vaccination roll-out, said: “Vaccines have many benefits. Vaccinating pregnant women can also protect their baby against flu for the first months of life. In South Africa, flu kills around 10 000 people each year and causes much pneumonia and many more cases of milder illness. These can be prevented with the flu vaccine.”
The national Department of Health has identified the vulnerable groups who will be eligible to receive the flu vaccine These include:
- Health-care workers.
- Individuals over the age of 65 years.
- People with cardiovascular disease (including chronic heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes) and chronic lung disease (including asthma, TB and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and individuals living with HIV and Aids.
- Pregnant women (irrespective of stage of pregnancy).
This year the quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV) will be introduced into the flu programme. The province has procured a total of 45 000 QIV doses and 75 000 trivalent influenza vaccine doses.
The flu vaccines will be distributed to primary health-care facilities (clinics and day hospitals). The department will work with old-age homes and their non-profit organisation partners to vaccinate vulnerable groups. Residents who have appointments at their local primary health-care facility will be vaccinated when they visit their facility.