Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the common flu or influenza was one virus that most people feared. One common misconception was that the flu was merely a runny nose. However, whilst a runny nose is a symptom of influenza, influenza is more serious. With symptoms such as high fever, sore throat, body aches, and coughing, infections may cause life-threatening complications such as pneumonia.
Given the potential dangers associated with the flu, it makes sense to take a flu vaccine which goes a long way toward preventing the flu.
A flu vaccine is a 6 monthly to a yearly vaccine to prepare the body to fight off the strains of influenza virus predicted to be prevalent during the winter months of the northern and southern hemispheres. Typically, a flu vaccine will contain either 3 (trivalent) or 4 (quadrivalent) strains of the influenza virus. Under the Singapore Ministry of Health’s (MOH) National Immunization Schedule, it is recommended that one dose of influenza vaccination is recommended per year or per flu season.
However, do note that even if you have had the flu vaccine, you may still catch a common cold. This is because the flu vaccine will not be able to protect you from all the causes of the common cold. Common cold symptoms can be caused by a variety of viruses, such as rhinovirus, coronavirus, and adenovirus.
Generally, taking the flu vaccine will reduce the chance of getting an influenza infection and the complications an infection brings. It will take about 2 weeks for protection to develop after vaccination. Side effects of the flu vaccine are usually mild and tolerable, and these include pain and swelling at the site of injection and mild fevers, which can be managed with Paracetamol. Some people may also feel faint after the vaccination so it is advisable to rest for 10-15 minutes post-vaccination.
The flu jab or flu shot is recommended for everyone and especially in people who are at high risk of developing influenza complications such as:
- Elderly aged 65 years and older
- Pregnant women in any trimester
- Persons with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart, lung, liver, and kidney disease
- Persons with lower-body resistance to infections due to Conditions such as leukemia, HIV, spleen removal, or organ transplant
- Using medications or receiving treatment such as taking long-term steroids, certain cancer drugs, or radiation therapy
- Residents staying in intermediate or long term care facilities
- Persons aged 18 years or younger and receiving long-term aspirin therapy
There have been some concerns about taking the flu vaccine during COVID-19. Although influenza vaccines do not protect you against COVID-19, it can still be helpful. Similar to other diseases like dengue fever, influenza has not gone away just because COVID-19 is happening now. Reducing influenza spread also helps to relieve the strain placed on our healthcare system.
If you have yet to book your flu vaccination appointment, do consider getting one as soon as possible.