Why the yearly flu shot is beneficial and protective

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan

What a year it has been! 
Our lives have been altered over the course of the last year and half in ways none of us imagined when we entered the new decade. Every aspect of our former lives – from our busy work schedules and grocery shopping to basic things like our children getting dressed and going to school – has been turned on its head and we have, in many ways, gotten used to this new lifestyle routine too.

Some things though must remain constant. Maintaining proper hygiene, eating well and studying come to mind for children. In the same way, getting your child vaccinated this year is your responsibility and it is one you cannot afford to ignore right now.

It is easy to think of the corona virus when we discuss vaccinations but no, I am referring to the annual flu vaccine that is due around this time of the year. 

smiling child

Transmitted easily through the air up to a distance of six feet when an infected person sneezes, influenza can present with fever, chills, headache and generalized body ache. Up until a year ago, people would mistake the early symptoms of this disease for the common cold but now, our minds would definitely wander to far more grave conclusions in the post-corona era. 

Either way, do not take this virus lightly. It has been around us for far longer and has resulted in significant annual morbidities and mortalities. There are over 30 to 50 lakh cases of severe episodes (8 lakh being children under the age of 5 years) of influenza with nearly 2.9 – 6.5 lakh people dying of this disease every single year. The infection tends to be worse in countries like ours that have tropical climates, often present throughout the year.

The good news for parents is that vaccines are already available for the flu. However, this being a virus, mutations tend to occur regularly and hence the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System5 (GISRS) monitors the influenza virus across the world and keeps updating the composition of the vaccines twice a year so that they are effective against the new strains.

Right flu vaccine, at the right time

As per WHO, India is categorised under Southern Hemisphere Tropical Asia Vaccination zone. The best time to vaccinate is during the monsoon.

The WHO has recommended that the Southern Hemisphere (SH) vaccine is the ideal vaccine for India. Influenza vaccination is most effective when local circulating viruses are well-matched with vaccine antigens for SH. Since the peak season of flu in the larger part of the country starts between mid-summer to monsoons, now is the right time to vaccinate against flu for effective protection.

Flu vaccine should be taken annually. However, getting vaccinated early for subsequent seasons is likely to be associated with reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season, particularly among older adults says CDC. Protection fades over time, so not getting vaccinated with the vaccine containing the right seasonal strains may leave one more vulnerable. Vaccination can be done throughout the SH flu season, into September or later.

This is why yearly flu shot is beneficial in India. As the restrictions across the country eases and the children come out of their houses once more, they are at a high risk of being exposed to the virus. Yes, we can inculcate the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask at all times but their young minds in the end are just delighted to be finally reunited with their friends after all this time apart. 

The responsibility of ensuring they are safe thus is upon us as parents.  Vaccinating your child and encouraging parents of other children to do the same ensures all the children remain protected from the worst effects of the virus this year while also providing protection to those around them, including adults, who may have been living with conditions like diabetes and asthma. 

It is up to us to prevent what can be prevented. We have truly learned the importance of this fact over the last year. Now, it is time to apply it in real life. So, pick up the phone and contact your paediatrician to get your child’s annual flu vaccine at the earliest.  

We must #PreventWhatCanBePrevented because flu is preventable with vaccination. 

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Let me know what you think.

  1. It's important to encourage other parents to get their kids vaccinated.Very rightly said.I am a firm believer in the Flu shot taken annually.

  2. Thanks for sharing an amazing blog on flu!!
    Health Derive

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