Friday 30 October, 2020

Why you should get the flu vaccine even if you got it this year

File photo

File photo

The Ministry of Health’s influenza vaccine for the 2020/2021 flu season has been modified to cover a host of viruses that weren’t covered before. 

Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s press conference today, Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunization, Grace Sookchand, explained that this vaccine has more to offer than its predecessor. 

“There are two types of the influenza; Type A and B and for both Type A (H1N1 and H3N2), the component has been changed to match the circulating virus as well as for the Type B virus. So, yes, the vaccine has been upgraded and definitely to match the season,” she said. 

With these additions, the vaccine is essentially new. This means that even those who would have taken the annual vaccine earlier this year, can and should take this new one as soon as possible. 

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Roshan Parasram added that as another advantage, getting the vaccine would help patients and health care providers to be able to differentiate between whether a person has COVID-19 or a seasonal flu. 

“If someone has the vaccine, based on the efficacy of the vaccine, once the physician asks that when taking history from the person that has flu-like symptoms and they would have had the vaccine, then the likelihood of it being influenza would be less,” he said. 

It’s a solid assist in the face of the pandemic since Dr Parasram said there are very few ways to know the difference between the flu and COVID-19. To be sure, he’s calling on everyone with symptoms for either to present themselves for testing so that health authorities can treat them effectively. 

“There’s a lot of the same symptoms that present with both (COVID-19 and the flu), there has been some research that has said that with COVID-19 you see more of loss of taste and loss of smell, but that can occur with influenza as well. 

“One of the only ways we can actually tell the difference is to have a test done. So, anyone with flu-like symptoms, we are asking you to present and we will have your COVID-19 test done," he implored. 

Dr Parasram added that with a COVID-19 sample done, even if it’s negative, it could help them deduce what specific ailment you could be facing. 

“The Caribbean Public Health Agency is able to test for H1N1, H3N2, the Type B viruses and 13 other pathogens of the respiratory type. So, once you have a negative COVID-19 test, we can test for other viruses that are in circulation,” he added. 

The flu season starts from tomorrow, October 1 and will persist until May. Citizens with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, hypertension and other comorbidities are advised to get vaccinated at the soonest possible time. The advice is also applicable for children and pregnant women. 

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