- Dr. Khadija
Why is the Flu Vaccine Important and Your most common questions about it answered
Influenza is an acute respiratory illness caused by Influenza A or B viruses and rarely C virus. It occurs in outbreaks worldwide every year, mainly during the winter seasons, which lasts from December to March in the United Arab Emirates.
It spreads by inhaling droplets from an infected person who coughs, sneezes or talks in close proximity to you, as well as it can spread by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
What are the common signs and symptoms of Influenza?
- Fever (>37.7C or 100F)
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Body aches
- Red watery eyes
- Vomiting and Diarrhea (more common in children)
Among healthy children and adults who do get seasonal Influenza they generally recover after 1-2 weeks of being infected. However, some do go on to develop a more severe and complicated disease, leading to hospitalization, need for oxygen and prolonged hospital stays, and this is especially true for children and adults with pre-existing medical conditions.
What are the Complications of Influenza?
- Viral or bacterial Pneumonia (infection in the lungs)
- Ear and sinus infections
- Muscle inflammation (known as Myositis)
- Heart problems (such as heart attacks, inflammation of the heart muscle and the sac covering the heart)
- Nerve inflammation causing weakness of muscles
- Worsening of already pre-existing medical conditions (such as Asthma and heart failure)
Yearly Immunization with the Influenza vaccine is the most effective way in preventing Influenza infection. The vaccine is updated yearly to include the main viruses causing influenza in that year.
What are the types of Influenza vaccine?
There are 2 types
- Inactivated Influenza vaccine
Is a vaccine consisting of virus particles that have been grown in a culture and then killed to destroy disease producing capacity.
It can be administered to all persons six months of age and older, including healthy persons and persons with underlying medical conditions.
Given in the Muscle
- Live-attenuated influenza vaccine
Modified disease-producing (“wild”) virus produced in a laboratory. The resulting vaccine organism retains the ability to replicate (grow) and produce immunity, but usually does not cause illness.
licensed only for healthy, nonpregnant persons age 2 through 49 years.
Given Intranasal (via nose)
Currently not available in UAE
Who should be vaccinated?
Everyone starting from the age of 6 months. Vaccination is particularly important for the following groups as they are at higher risk of getting influenza complications and transmitting the disease:
- All healthcare workers
- Children below 5 years
- Pregnant women (This will protect your newborn as well as your immunity will pass to your baby via the placenta and continue to give protection till 6 months of age)
- Hajj and Umrah pilgrims
- People aged 65 years and above
- People with high risk conditions such as:
– Taking treatments that weaken their immune system like radiation therapy and other treatment for cancer
– Having damaged spleen or removed spleen
– HIV infection or AIDS
– Chronic alcoholism
– Having long-term health problems (chronic disease):
o Heart disease
o Chronic lung disease (including Asthma)
o Chronic liver disease
o Kidney disease
When should I get vaccinated?
You should get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available. It is highly recommended to take the flu vaccine before winter, by September – October.
If you haven’t got the vaccine during this time, you should get it now. You can still get the benefit of flu vaccine, even if you were vaccinated later in the season. The flu vaccine gives protection throughout the current flu season.
How many doses of flu vaccine is required?
People need to take 1 dose of flu vaccine every year. However, children below 9 years need to take 2 doses of the vaccine, 4 weeks apart, if they are taking the flu vaccine for the first time.
Who should not be vaccinated?
- Babies below 6 months.
- People with severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine.
- People who had Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) less than 6 weeks after a previous dose of influenza vaccine.
- Moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever.
What are the side effects of flu vaccine?
The vaccine is like any other medicine and could cause some side-effects. The risk of severe reaction is very rare. Some minor side effects may occur following a flu vaccination, including redness or pain in the injected area, low grade fever, and aches.
These are mild and short lasting side effects which normally resolve 72 hours after vaccination.
Can I get flu vaccine if I am allergic to egg?
People with severe allergic reaction to egg can be vaccinated. Talk to the doctor if you have severe allergy to egg. As you may be observed for a short period of time in the clinic after being vaccinated.
Flu vaccine and COVID-19
It is possible to have flu as well as other respiratory illness like COVID-19 at the same time. Symptoms are similar making it hard to tell the difference without laboratory testing.
If you have tested positive for Covid-19, Influenza vaccination will be deferred until you have met the criteria for discontinuation of isolation and you have fully recovered.
If you have had close contact with a suspected or positive case vaccination should be deferred until after the 14 days quarantine has ended.
You can still take the Influenza vaccine if you have received or will receive the Covid-19 vaccine but you are required to have an interval of 4 weeks between both vaccines.
Wear your mask and Wash your hands regularly
We are all in this together
Dr Khadija Abdool Abdelbary