Time to get a flu jab

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Scientists and health experts call the elderly and people from vulnerable groups to get vaccinated against Influenza ahead of the winter season.

From Monday, people aged over 65, children from 6 months to 15 years old and those belonging to vulnerable groups can contact their GP to arrange an appointment for an Influenza vaccine.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Dr Maria Koliou, a paediatrician and government advisor on COVID-19, said although not as dangerous as COVID-19, Influenza A can cause serious disease in some cases.

“Influenza A can cause serious complications of the upper respiratory system, like pneumonia, but can also open the way to other infections and neurological problems,” said Dr Koliou.

She added that just like COVID-19, the best way to build up immunity is with a vaccine, noting that studies have shown that someone who has been infected with Influenza A or B in the past is not immune for life.

Dr Koliou explained the flu vaccine covers two strains of Influenza A and two of the Influenza B types.

“This was the case with the vaccines that were produced last year as well, but just like any vaccine for seasonal diseases, it is updated to cover new variants of the viruses.”

She said that scientists are concerned about the possible spread of Influenza due to the widespread of COVID-19.

The doctor said that studies in the UK have shown that contracting COVID and an Influenza virus can lead to more serious diseases, increasing death risk.

As Dr Koliou said, so far, no cases of people coming down with Influenza and COVID at the same time have been recorded due to social distancing, mask mandates and other coronavirus measures in place.

Asked if vaccines would suffice to cover the eligible groups, Dr Koliou said she believed that the 180,000 vaccines ordered should be enough.

Some 110,000 have already been delivered to GPs across the island, with another 70,000 expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

“In previous years, authorities were bringing in just over 60,000 vaccines.

“This year, however, health authorities have taken the issue very seriously because of COVID-19, as they do not want to see people contracting both viruses at the same time.”

People will be called by their GP to go in for a jab, with the cost covered by the General Healthcare System (GHS).

Asked if flu jabs will be available to the general public, Dr Koliou said that non-eligible groups would be able to buy flu jabs at pharmacies.

Currently, there is a shortage of flu vaccines at pharmacies, an issue that is being addressed.

Dr Koliou said that people eligible for a flu jab should get vaccinated in the coming weeks, as the flu season is usually between December to February.

The health expert said for those getting a COVID jab, it is preferable to keep 15 days between the two to observe side effects.