Although we may commonly associate the flu with just a week of runny noses and sore throat, the flu is nothing to sneeze at. Especially for older individuals or those who may already have a chronic condition, the flu can lead to more serious health complications. As such, it’s important to get vaccinated against the flu, as the influenza vaccination is one of the best ways to decrease your risk of falling ill.
Dr Tan Choon Yean answers frequently asked questions about the flu vaccination, and why you should get vaccinated against influenza.
How does the flu shot work?
“The flu vaccine is designed to trigger your immune system to produce antibodies against virus strains that commonly cause the flu,” says Dr Tan.
The vaccine itself usually contains a weakened or inactivated form of the flu virus (that would be unable to cause you to fall ill). When exposed to this version of the virus, your immune system learns how to fight it off, and stores this learnings for future encounters with a real, live flu virus.
“This way, your body is always ready to fight the virus, if you do contract it later on.”
Who should get a flu shot?
“The flu shot would be beneficial to most individuals, especially if you’re a senior or already have a compromised immune system,” shares Dr Tan.
However, there are certain groups that may not be suitable for the flu vaccine. These include:
- Children who are 6 months or younger. “Babies may be too young for the flu shot, and parents should consult their child’s doctor on when they would be suitable to be vaccinated.”
- Individuals with life-threatening allergies. “Some may be allergic to certain ingredients in a flu vaccine, and if you have a severe reaction, it may not be advised to get vaccinated.”
For these groups, they may need to take extra care to protect themselves against the flu.
Why do I need to get the flu vaccine every year?
The Ministry of Health recommends an annual flu vaccination; and you may notice that some companies do organise yearly flu vaccination drives, to encourage their employees to get their annual flu shot.
“This is because the flu virus can evolve quite rapidly,” answers Dr Tan. “New flu vaccines are developed every year to keep up with these changes, to ensure that you continue to stay protected against the flu.”
Why are there two types of flu vaccinations each year?
“The two batches of flu vaccines are based on the two different winter seasons in the Northern Hemisphere (November – April) and Southern Hemisphere (May – October). This is because influenza cases tend to peak in winter, and so, vaccines are created around these seasons to help the people living in those countries to manage their risk of flu,” says Dr Tan.
Given that Singapore doesn’t have winter and is a temperate country, the batch that you receive matters less. Instead, flu cases tend to increase when it gets rainy. “Either way, you’ll be provided with the latest available vaccination when you go for a flu vaccine appointment. This is sufficient to ensure you’re protected against the flu.”
Can I get vaccinated against the flu even when I’m sick?
If you’ve gone for a flu vaccination, you may have noticed that the pre-vaccination advisory includes letting your healthcare practitioner know whether you are sick or not. “Generally, it’s okay to get the flu shot if you’re down with mild illness,” assures Dr Tan.
“However, if you have a fever or moderate illness, you may need to delay your vaccination until you’re feeling better. Speak to your doctor to get their advice on whether you can proceed with your vaccination, if you are indeed feeling unwell.”
How do I recover fast from the flu?
“The best way to recover from the flu is to have lots of rest, drink plenty of water, and make sure you’re eating a balanced diet,” says Dr Tan. “You can also consult a doctor for medication, that can help with alleviating the symptoms.”
Haven’t booked your annual flu vaccination yet? Arrange an appointment at any of our 9 DA clinics or get our mobile team to come down to your home for a home-based vaccination. We also have family packages available, so that your loved ones also stay protected against influenza.