With the arrival of colder weather and the inevitable flu season that’ll be close on its heels, it’s time for another vaccine drive to join the fray, the annual flu vaccine.
Before even discussing your patients, it’s important to remember to put your health first. In their study Incidence of Influenza in Healthy Adults and Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (published online in Plos One) Kuster SP et al. found that healthcare workers (HCW) are at higher risk of acquiring influenza infection as compared to adults working in non-healthcare settings, and that the rate of asymptomatic infections in particular might be considerably higher in HCWs. So don’t forget to get your flu shot first.
No doubt you’ll once again face a host of questions from patients about whether to get the flu vaccine or not especially in conjunction with questions related to patients having received a Covid-19 vaccination.
The most obvious answer about both vaccines according to the CDC is: “Getting a flu vaccine is the best protection against flu and its potentially serious complications and getting a Covid-19 vaccine is the best protection against Covid-19.
“Flu vaccines do not protect against Covid-19. Flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness, hospitalisation, and death in addition to other important benefits. Likewise, getting a Covid-19 vaccine is the best protection against Covid-19, but those vaccines do not protect against flu. There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccination raises your risk of getting sick from Covid-19 or any other coronavirus.”
One of the questions patients are bound to ask is whether they can get both the Covid-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine. Studies show that co-administration of Covid-19 and influenza vaccines is safe and produces a good immune response. In fact, Lazarus R et al. reported in their multicentre, randomised, controlled, phase 4 trial that: “Concomitant vaccination with both Covid-19 and influenza vaccines over the next immunisation season should reduce the burden on healthcare services for vaccine delivery, allowing for timely vaccine administration and protection from Covid-19 and influenza for those in need.” (Safety and immunogenicity of concomitant administration of Covid-19 vaccines (ChAdOx1 or BNT162b2) with seasonal influenza vaccines in adults in the UK (ComFluCOV) published online in The Lancet Vol.398, Iss.10318).
The NICD cautioned that groups at increased risk for severe influenza illness and Covid-19 should be prioritised for flu vaccination. These groups include:
- Persons aged ≥65 years
- Persons of any age with underlying chronic diseases
- Persons who are morbidly obese (i.e. BMI ≥40)
- Pregnant women