Do you need your flu vaccine this year?
This winter, we’re not just facing the seasonal flu. This year, flu season and COVID-19 reached us at the same time. Although no vaccine is available to protect you against COVID-19, the flu vaccine is already available. While the flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, it can protect you and everyone that you interact with from catching the flu. It also makes sure you don’t catch COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.
Don’t wait to vaccinate
The most effective way to give your body extra power to fight off the flu or to protect yourself against severe flu complications is to get a flu vaccine before the flu season starts.
Flu vaccines are safe and proven to offer you a significant degree of protection against each year’s prominent flu strains. And, if you do happen to get the flu, having had the vaccine will reduce how long you’re ill and how serious your symptoms are.
Don’t wait to vaccinate. Call your nearest clinic, GP or pharmacy and make an appointment to get the flu vaccine to protect yourself and your family this season.
Antibiotics cannot cure flu
Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Flu is a viral infection, so antibiotics can’t treat it. Giving antibiotics for flu is both harmful to the patient and also worsens a serious, global problem – that of bacteria growing ever more resistant to this medicine. The incorrect, or overuse, of antibiotics spikes during flu season.
If you get a bacterial infection because you’ve had the flu, your doctor can prescribe antibiotics.
The flu vaccine cannot give you flu
The injected flu vaccine contains killed (inactivated) flu viruses, so it cannot give you flu. The inactivated viruses simply allow your body to develop the antibodies needed to fight influenza. Your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected, and a few people get a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, but other reactions are very rare.
You can appear to catch the flu after you get a flu shot. Why?
- You happen to catch the flu during the two-week window period
It takes two weeks for your body to develop antibodies after you’ve had a flu shot. If you're exposed to a flu virus shortly before or during this window period, you could still catch the flu. However, you won’t suffer for as long or as badly as you would have, had you not had a flu shot.
- The season’s flu virus doesn’t match the vaccine
In some years, the influenza strains used for the vaccine don't completely match the strains circulating during the flu season. This could make your flu shot less effective, but it still offers some protection.
- You’re actually suffering from other illnesses
Many other illnesses like the common cold and COVID-19 produce symptoms that appear similar to those of flu. So you may think you have the flu when you actually don't.
You need a yearly flu vaccine
Each year’s flu shot only protects you against that year’s strain of flu. Flu strains constantly adapt and change. This means that last year's vaccine isn’t effective against this year’s flu. Therefore, you need a flu vaccine each year.
The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as the vaccine becomes available. This year’s flu vaccine is already available. You can still get the vaccine any time in winter.
Pregnant women who get the flu vaccine protect themselves and their unborn babies
Getting a flu shot helps your unborn baby. You should get the flu vaccine no matter what stage of pregnancy you are in. If you're pregnant and catch the flu, you could get even more ill than usual. Having the flu vaccine can also protect your baby against the flu after they're born, and during the first six months of their life.
“Because babies haven’t had the time and exposure to develop strong immune systems, they are very prone to illness, so it’s important that moms equip them with all the protection they can get,” says Dr Deepak Patel, Principal Clinical Specialist at Discovery Vitality. “Moms are able to do this because their bodies develop the necessary flu antibodies, which are then shared with their babies through umbilical fluids and, after birth, through breast milk.”
A healthy, balanced diet is your best protection against flu
Many people think that taking daily vitamin C supplements will keep them from getting the flu, but there’s no evidence to conclusively prove this. “Taking any single vitamin supplement may not do much good because the balance between vitamins and minerals plays a big role in how well they work,” says Terry Harris, a Discovery Vitality dietitian.
“Vitamin C may shorten the duration of a cold’s symptoms but taking high doses of vitamin C has not been proven to prevent colds. Obtaining vitamins and minerals in their natural form, or ‘food-state’, is always best. That’s because food offers the perfect mix of different vitamins and minerals that work together to boost your health and immunity. Remember that excellent vegetable and fruit sources of vitamin C include peppers, broccoli, red cabbage, guavas, kiwi fruit, and oranges.”