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Everyone should get flu vaccine this year amid COVID-19 pandemic: WHO

There are many vaccines that are not part of the recommended immunization schedules.

Several studies have indicated that flu vaccines can help reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and reduce the burden on healthcare system.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : August 21, 2020 9:36 AM IST

Countries around the world are focusing on controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected nearly 22 million people globally. In the race for a cure or treatment for the deadly virus, routine health campaigns and vaccinations to protect against other diseases take a back seat. With influenza (flu) season approaching, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed the importance of getting flu shot this year amid COVID-19 pandemic.

During a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday, WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward urged the world to administer widespread anti-flu vaccinations, which may also help prevent the risk of coronavirus complications, reported Reuters.

Further stressing the need for getting the flu vaccine this year, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove added that less than 10 per cent of the population has evidence of antibodies against the novel coronavirus. The experts believe that getting vaccinated against flu will help avert hospital crisis and also offer some protection against severe COVID-19 infection.

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Why influenza vaccinations are so important?

Influenza is a serious viral infection that attacks your respiratory system your nose, throat and lungs. In most cases, it resolves on its own in a week or two or can be treated at home. But sometimes it can lead to hospitalisation and even death.

In high-risk people, flu may lead to severe complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups, heart problems, ear infections. Pneumonia can be deadly for older adults and people with a chronic illness. According to the WHO, seasonal influenza kills up to 650,000 people every year. Therefore, it is important to get vaccinated against flu every year, especially to protect young children, older people, pregnant women, or those with weakened immune systems.

The annual influenza vaccine isn't a completely foolproof protection, but it's still your best defense against the flu. Getting vaccinated against flu may also help your body to develop antibodies against several strains of the influenza virus. As per experts, influenza viruses are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly.

Several studies have also indicated that flu vaccines can help reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and reduce the burden on healthcare system. In a study, Italian researchers suggested that flu vaccine may train a person's immune system to quickly recognise and avoid any harmful organisms invading the lungs.

Flu vaccine: Who should get it and when?

Certain groups of people are at higher risk of developing flu complications. These include:

  • Children under age 5, and especially those under 12 months
  • Older people who are above age 65
  • Pregnant women
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • People who have chronic illnesses, such as asthma, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes
  • People suffering from obesity
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone age 6 months or older. It is best to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins. CDC recommends that getting a flu shot by the end of October. However, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial.

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