South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has announced that the flu vaccine will begin to be rationed, this is according to Business Insider.
The flu vaccine is designed to combat multiple strains of the ever-mutating common influenza virus and is updated annually to keep up with the latest strains. In terms of the novel coronavirus, this vaccine is entirely ineffective.
However, those who have access to or are given the flu vaccine may be able to keep additional pressures off South Africa’s health system. Beds full of patients ill with the flu can be emptied by this vaccine, allowing additional capacity for patients with the novel coronavirus.
Mhkize’s rationing is in part to prioritize healthcare workers in the country, now at the front lines of the pandemic. The minister says that South Africa has received limited stock of the flu vaccine as the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t anticipated when orders were placed a year ago.
“This is precipitated by the fact that the country cannot afford to have [healthcare workers] sick, especially as the flu season approaches,” Mkhize says.
“This is one of the major lessons that we have learned from countries that have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Professor Wolfgang Preiser, Medical Virology division head at the University of Stellenbosch, says the flu vaccine should be given especially to people in high-risk groups – children younger than 3 and adults older than 65.
People within the high-risks brackets can suffer serious consequences if they get both the coronavirus and the flu, Preiser told Business Insider.
Further, Guy Richards, Critical Care professor at the University of Witswatersrand, says that getting the flu vaccine can help clear confusion between the flu and COVID-19 as they have similar symptoms at the onset. This could allow for a doctor or medical practitioner to understand whether they have the coronavirus or not.
“It has no side effects. It cannot cause ‘flu’ or a cold and the most you can get is a sore arm at the site of the injection, responsive to Panado,” concludes Richards.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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