Pandemic pushes up demand for seasonal flu shots

September 18, 2020 12:14 am | Updated 12:14 am IST - Bengaluru

While the wait for COVID-19 vaccine continues, several people in the city are opting to take the seasonal flu shot to protect themselves from other respiratory illnesses.

The shots are available at various private hospitals and clinics, and doctors are advising people to take them so that they do not catch seasonal flu as the healthcare system is burdened owing to the pandemic. Some clinics are also providing vaccination camps in societies, workplaces, and homes. There are discounts and special offers on group bookings too.

Parimala V. Thirumalesh, Sr. consultant, Neonatology and Paediatrics, Aster CMI Hospital, said more people were taking flu shots, roughly 30% more than the usual. “Some wrongly believe that since coronavirus causes respiratory illness, a flu shot might protect them against it. Some are taking it because they are afraid that if they catch a fever or cough, they might be suspected to have COVID-19 and home quarantined,” she said.

Prateek R., a software engineer, decided that his entire family would take the flu shot to avoid panic that might be caused if they develop a regular flu. “Due to the change in the weather, we might develop cold or fever, and do not want that to be mistaken for COVID-19,” he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a seasonal flu shot would provide protection against three or four influenza viruses that research suggests may be most common during the season. “Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever during 2020–21 to protect yourself and the people around you from flu, and to help reduce the strain on healthcare systems responding to the COVID-19 pandemic,” states its website.

Arvind Balakrishna Kasaragod, director – Medical Services, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, said they had seen an increase in demand for the flu shots this year as against last year.

“As we head into influenza season with the novel coronavirus pandemic still raging, we have observed that customers are worried and they are keen to take flu shots as a preventive measure. Although influenza’s disease burden varies from year to year, evidence clearly shows that vaccination can reduce flu severity and prevent hospitalisations. Those who are at a higher risk for the infection, or have pre-existing co-morbidities, including expectant mothers, should not hesitate in taking a good flu shot as it can cut down the risk of a respiratory illness that can lead to confusion with symptoms of COVID-19, leading to anxiety and unnecessary interventions,” he said.

S. Sachidanand, Vice-Chancellor of the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, said the shots were recommended to people as it would build immunity against other infectious diseases.

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