We are currently facing the biggest healthcare challenge in recent times in the form of COVID 19 pandemic. The burden of the covid 19 disease is immense . Our population is not adequately immunised against COVID 19 and there is no Covid vaccine for kids. This leaves a big part of population vulnerable while there are speculations about the third wave.
As if corona virus wasn’t enough, flu season is on its way. As some of us are aware that flu causes serious illness and deaths in India in significant numbers. To make matters worse, one cannot identify flu differently from COVID 19 illness easily. You need lot of tests and still may not be certain whether it’s flu or Covid 19 disease. So it’s beneficial to avoid catching flu. Especially in the current scenario.
Flu , corona virus and other respiratory germs can be effectively avoided with three simple measures: face masks in public, social distancing and hand hygiene. I strongly recommend these measure for everyone. Even if you are immunised please follow these measures ( it’s too early to rule out risks due to variant strains of coronavirus) . Try avoiding crowded places as much as possible.
Vaccine plus above measures provide fair protection. Flu vaccine is recommended for all the age groups including children to be taken every year. This has been found to be protective against severe flu. It’s effective and safe. So it is a good idea to get your flu vaccine this year if you haven’t had one.
The benefit of flu vaccine is not limited to protection from seasonal flu but it has been found that it provides some protection against COVID 19 disease as well. There have been studies from all around the world including USA, Brazil, Australia and Italy where they have found reduced severity of Covid 19 disease in people vaccinated against flu compared to people who weren’t. Researchers have suggested that this is possibly due to phenomenons called cross reactivity and bystander immunity. Studies have suggested that there is structural similarity between flu and novel coronavirus and it may lead to cross reactive immune response. The bystander immunity response is thought to be related to nonspecific broad bonding antibodies formed after flu vaccine which help to fight against coronavirus in addition.
I feel that one cannot rely totally on flu vaccine to provide immunity against COVID 19 but whatever protection it offers , should be welcomed. This could be crucial for people who haven’t received the vaccine due to unavailability and children for whome there is no COVID 19 vaccine available yet. Never to forget that flu warrants the vaccination on its own. Many of us are not aware that seasonal flu can cause pneumonia, serious illness and death. Many of us have witnessed horrors of swine flu few years ago. Prevention is better than cure and vaccines are the best available way for prevention. Flu vaccine will help you to stay away from flu and probably to some extent from coronavirus as well.
So consult your doctor and get the flu vaccine if you haven’t.
Dr Vinayak Hingane.
MBBS DNB medicine