Give the elderly an extra dose for protection

The administration of flu vaccine, which is already available, can help prevent hospitalisation and reduce the risk of deaths caused by influenza.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File Photo)

KOCHI:  India has been witnessing a spike in the number of flu cases during monsoon and winter every year. Though flu does not cause death or severe health issues directly, the seasonal disease can be severe in the elderly population and people with comorbidities. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses that circulate in all parts of the world.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and ICMR have recommended vaccination of high-risk groups with seasonal influenza vaccine. It is an important tool to prevent infection and severe outcomes caused by influenza viruses. The administration of flu vaccine, which is already available, can help prevent hospitalisation and reduce the risk of deaths caused by influenza.

In India, the ministry of health and family welfare suggests the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine. According to health experts, the vaccine is designed to protect against four different flu viruses - two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. “The administration of flu shots should be mandatory for the elderly population. Flu shots do not prevent the occurrence of influenza. However, the severity of the disease and risk of death can be reduced,” said Dr Anitha Thilakan, associate professor at the Government Medical College, Thrissur, and vice-president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Kochi.

Dr Sunny Orethel, former president of IMA, Kochi, said that flu shot shots should be mandatorily given to people above 65 years. “It is recommended for people with comorbidities as well. The immunity level of the human body will decrease as we get older. Also, if flu affects elderly people or people with other diseases, it can even cause death. Flu vaccines can reduce such risks.” He said that most of the deaths in India are due to pneumonia, the worst stage of flu, along with the presence of other diseases. “Flu shots can prevent such deaths,” he said.

It is administered annually as there will be changes in the components of the vaccines according to mutations in the virus. “Genetic changes happen to the influenza virus. There will be changes in the components of the vaccine as well. It is preferred to take the flu shots annually,” said Dr Anitha. She said that the administration of flu vaccine has not been made compulsory in India. However, it can reduce risk factors.

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