5 Reasons why the 2020 Flu Shot is More Important Than Ever
Dr Anthony Renshaw, Regional Medical Director in the European Health Consulting Practice
As winter approaches, many companies are wondering how to approach the question of flu vaccination in the context of the current pandemic. Many are asking what the benefit is, if flu vaccination does not ultimately protect you from COVID-19, and why get it if everyone is practicing social distancing anyway?
Despite this, many governments are currently promoting vaccination for their citizens, although in some locations, access to flu vaccines this year may be problematic. So why is it so important to get the flu vaccine this year? All the reasons why flu vaccination is recommended every year remain valid, and there are additional reasons now due to COVID-19.
PROVIDING PROTECTION AND REDUCTION OF SEVERITY
Flu vaccination is quite effective. In most years it is around 50%-70% effective in preventing the flu, which is considerably high. If you do still get sick, or if you get a co-infection with another virus, the flu vaccine will still reduce the severity of the disease. So, it is well worth getting.
PROTECTION OF AT-RISK GROUPS
Flu can be a severe disease, and every year thousands of people die from the flu. People over the age of 65, those with underlying health conditions (including HIV, asthma, heart disease), pregnant women and young children are at a higher risk. By having a flu vaccine and reducing prevalence of the flu in your community, you also protect others including vulnerable groups from potentially getting the disease.
PROTECTING HEALTHCARE CAPACITY
Flu vaccination will reduce the number of people that need medical attention and hospitalisation for those contracting the flu. This year of all years, there is a tremendous societal benefit in getting your flu vaccine as our health systems are still battling the coronavirus.
Whilst it is true that lower rates of seasonal flu have been reported in the southern hemisphere this year, (likely due to the various distancing and hygiene practices under way in many countries, and perhaps linked to the drop in global travel) flu is nevertheless circulating, causing severe disease and fatalities.
PREVENTING COVID-19 AND SEASONAL FLU CO-INFECTION
There have also been reports that suggest that influenza and COVID-19 co-infections may result in more severe disease in high-risk patients, and it can certainly complicate the diagnoses. As more information becomes available we will understand this better.
THE SIDE BENEFITS OF FLU VACCINATION THIS YEAR
The flu vaccine will not protect you from getting COVID-19. But by being protected from influenza, will reduce the need for doctors’ visits, the risk of developing fever and respiratory symptoms, and therefore the risk of being quarantined. Learn more about fever or respiratory symptoms here.
The issues this year to address are however far more complex than ever before. Securing flu vaccine stocks, understanding how best to vaccinate personnel, and in which countries to focus vaccination activities this year, are all issues we are currently guiding our clients on.