Taking action against flu
With autumn just around the corner, we need to start thinking about protecting ourselves against the dangerous influenza strains about to hit us. In fact, a trip to your pharmacy, GP, hospital or clinic for your annual flu shot might just be the smartest thing you can do this season.
According to the World Health Organisation, influenza epidemics affect up to 15% of the global population every year, which leads to between 250 000 to 500 000 deaths. Flu vaccines are therefore highly recommended by healthcare practitioners as a precautionary step to protect ourselves against the dangerous virus strains which have the ability to cause a pandemic if not controlled and treated correctly.
The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) has joined the National Department of Health in driving an awareness campaign which highlights the risks of influenza and the benefits of having the flu vaccine. The Influenza Vaccination Campaign is endorsed and supported by the National Department of Health and the two pharmaceutical companies supplying influenza vaccines to the South African healthcare market, Abbott and Sanofi Pasteur.
“Last year more than a million flu vaccinations were administered in South Africa, and this year we’d like to see these numbers increased significantly,” says Sham Moodley, ICPA Chairperson. “Due to the extensive footprint and reach of independent pharmacies throughout South Africa, we are well positioned to play an important role in this campaign,” says Sham.The vaccine quantities provided to the South African health sector by pharmaceutical companies are based on previous years’ uptake, population growth factors and the manufacturing capacity based on world demand. With the Influenza Vaccination Campaign, the ICPA also wants to ensure that every single vaccination supplied to healthcare service providers this season is administered, contributing significantly to our population’s overall health.
People considered to be in high risk groups can get their flu vaccinations for free from government clinics or hospitals. The high risk groups are:
· Pregnant women
· People over 65 years of age;
· Those with chronic heart disease, diabetes or chronic lung disease, especially asthmatics
· People living with HIV/Aids or other reduced immune system related conditions
However, getting vaccinated before winter is something even the healthiest person should consider, and they can get their flu shot for a nominal fee at any private healthcare organisation, such as your local pharmacy.
“South Africa has been very lucky as we have only had isolated cases of dangerous influenza viruses such as bird flu and swine flu which caused havoc in Europe and Asia,” says Sham. He adds: “With new types of virus strains developing every winter, it is important that we protect our people and maintain our status as a country with only a moderate percentage of these dangerous influenza strains.”
Some general facts about flu vaccination:
· Flu vaccines protect against the three influenza viruses that research by global and national healthcare organisations indicates will be most common during the upcoming season
· Influenza vaccines will not give you flu. It only contains non-infectious particles of the virus, which merely alert the body to the threat of the virus
· Regarding side effects, flu vaccines are considered to be very safe with the most common associated reaction being only a mild soreness at the sight of the injection
“This campaign goes hand in hand with our health sector’s renewed focus on overall wellness and primary healthcare,” says Sham. “The ICPA looks forward to assisting millions of South Africans to put their health first with the administration of flu shots being an important part of this initiative.”
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