Saturday 31 October, 2020

Cayman, it's flu vaccine season... can this help fight COVID-19?

Minister of Health, Dwayne Seymour, has indicated that the start of the annual 2020-2021 general flu vaccine programme will be announced by Public Health in October. The value of this ‘flu vaccine, particularly to the elderly, the vulnerable include those with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and chronic lung disease cannot be emphasised enough. “Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, especially those who are most vulnerable and whom we have made great strides to protect,” said the Minister. But can the flu shot also provide a protective defense against COVID-19?

The answer is that while the flu vaccine does not prevent COVID-19, the pandemic makes it even more important to get innoculated.

Although COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms and both are contagious, the flu vaccine is specific to the influenza virus. The flu vaccine mounts the bodies’ response against influenza, not COVID-19, but the more you limit your chances of getting any respiratory virus, the better. Because they have such similar symptoms, you could have the flu and think it’s COVID-19 or vice versa.

According to a report from Entertainment Now, "Doctors are saying that the flu vaccine can decrease the risk of developing other respiratory problems, which could aggravate a person’s risk of getting COVID-19."

Further, the vaccine limits the chances that people will contract an illness that makes them think that they have COVID, which will provide an ease to the healthcare system.

In a message delivered at last week's coronavirus press briefing, Minister Seymour stressed that while the flu shot cannot protect against COVID-19, there are many important benefits, such as:

1.    Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death.

2.    Getting a flu vaccine can also save healthcare resources for the care of patients with other severe illnesses or COVID-19.

3.    Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working age adults, and older adults. "As I’ve mentioned several times before this should be coupled with policies that allow unwell employees and students to stay home whether to work from home or rest," he said.

4.    It is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. For example,

Flu vaccinations have been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who had had a cardiac event in the past year.

They can also help reduce worsening and hospitalization for flu-related chronic lung disease, such as in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or C.O.P.D.

According to the CDC, Flu vaccination also has been shown in separate studies to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease. Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.

5.Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, especially those who are most vulnerable and whom we have made great strides to protect.

"Despite the many benefits offered by flu vaccination, not everyone will go get one. However, as we approach the flu season and prepare for flu vaccines to soon arrive to the Cayman Islands we must be mindful that the flu still causes many illnesses, hospitalizations and in some cases can cause death. With a vaccination we continue to protect our people, the elderly and vulnerable even from the flu," said Minister Seymour. 

Because there is the possibility of getting both the flu and COVID-19 this year, public health experts are urging everyone to get the flu vaccine not only to protect themselves but also to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients.

The community is being reminded that facemasks are still required at ALL HSA locations including district clinics. They are also still required at police stations and at care homes and also at pharmacies. 

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