The provincial health department will be offering vulnerable groups the annual flu vaccination as they prepare for the upcoming winter season.
They are expecting a total of 120 000 flu vaccine doses between April and May 2021. This year the quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV) will be introduced into the influenza programme. The province has secured a total of 45 000 QIV doses and 75 000 trivalent influenza vaccine doses, said health department spokesperson, Monique Johnstone.
As the roll-out of the flu vaccinations will coincide with the Covid-19 vaccinations, there should be at least a 14-day gap between taking a flu vaccine and a Covid-19 vaccine, she said.
“We advise that people still take the flu vaccine to protect themselves against flu. However, please note that the flu vaccine will not protect them against Covid-19,” said Ms Johnstone.
Healthcare workers continue to be a top priority group for the 2021 vaccinations, she said.
The National Department of Health has identified the vulnerable groups who will be eligible to receive the flu vaccine. They are healthcare workers, individuals over the age of 65 years, people with cardiovascular disease (including chronic heart disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes) and chronic lung disease (including asthma, TB and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and individuals living with HIV and Aids, and pregnant women (irrespective of stage of pregnancy).
Professor Heather Zar, who worked with the National Department of Health on the guidelines for the flu vaccination rollout, says the vaccine has many benefits.
“The flu vaccine is currently the most effective way to prevent influenza, especially for those who are at risk of severe illness. This includes the elderly, pregnant women and those with underlying heart or lung disease or HIV. Vaccinating pregnant women also can protect their baby against flu for the first months of life. In South Africa, flu kills around 10 000 people each year and causes much pneumonia and many more cases of milder illness. These can be prevented with the flu vaccine,” said Professor Zar.
The flu vaccines will be distributed to primary healthcare facilities (clinics and day hospitals). The department will work with old age homes and its NPO partners to vaccinate vulnerable groups. Residents who have appointments at their local primary healthcare facility will be vaccinated when they visit their facility.
The vaccines will be administered as soon as the doses arrive at primary healthcare facilities, said Ms Johnstone.