For the last few days the media has been discussing the flu vaccine. So being a pediatrician there are a lot of enquiries about flu vaccines. So here in this blog post we are discussing the flu vaccine and will try to solve the meaning of queries about it. I hope this will solve most of the doubts in your mind about flu vaccine and covid-19.
About influenza or flu
Influenza, which is simply called flu in a layman’s language, is an infectious disease. It is a disease caused by infection of the influenza viruses. In the past we have seen the swine flu epidemic caused by the influenza viruses.
Since then influenza vaccine was launched and it is used currently.
How does the flu spread?
The mode of spread of flu and covid-19 disease are similar. When the infected person which may be symptomatic or asymptomatic, breaths, speaks, sneezes or coughs, the virus is sprayed in the air.
When the susceptible person or the child comes in contact with those droplets and inhales doors droplets, he or she may get infected.
Also if the surfaces and objects that are harbouring the virus on them are handled with hands and those hands come in contact with face or eyes, nose the person may get infected.
The mode of spread for covid-19 and influenza virus is strikingly similar. A single infected person can spread the virus to many people coming in contact.
Symptoms of flu
Symptoms of flu are also somewhat similar to covid-19 disease. They are as follows:
- Cold: Incubation period of influenza virus is some hours unlike covid-19 infection. Influence or cold flu presents as a common cold. It is inform of blocked nose running nose and sneezing.
- Cough: it is also a common symptom of the flu. The cough may be dry in nature or associated with expectoration.
- Fever: it is a common symptom of the flu. It can be mild grade initially progressing to moderate to high grade later on. Sometimes it may be associated with chills and rigors.
- Breathlessness: A few patients of influenza get serious infections in that case they may present like pneumonia. This patient may experience breathing difficulty. In small children breathing difficulty can be assessed by observing the breathing pattern in the children. Breathing difficulty in children presents has in drawing of the chest and increased chest and abdominal movement while breathing.
- A small percentage of children get very severe infection and it may cause death in those children
- Some children also show the symptoms of fatigue, weakness vomiting, and loose motion.
If you read all those symptoms they are strikingly similar to the covid-19 infection. There is no way one can detect covid-19 unless the test was done.
Symptoms of covid-19
In addition to about those symptoms covid-19 has some additional symptoms. A small percentage of covid-19 infection in children makes it a severe disease. Those children may need oxygen support and ventilation. Small percentage of children die because of covid-19 infection.
Additional covid-19 disease has another complication like M-ISC in children. Covid-19 disease may present as multi organ failure in case of clotting complications.
Symptoms of covid-19 and influenza infection are strikingly similar. Clinically board diseases look similar. It is not possible who has covid-19 and who has influenza infection unless the test has been done.
The test conducted to diagnose covid-19 disease are rapid antigen test and rt-pcr test. This test are costly and may not be accessible to all.
Moreover when you visit the testing centre there is a crowd and it may cause increased risk of getting infection.
In second wave of covid pandemic we experienced situation like medicines and beds even the testing facilities where short compared to the demand.
Yet for the treatment of covid-19 infection the specific drugs are not approved for the children. Covid-19 infection is treated as a common cold and cough in children.
Children who are severely affected may need oxygen support and ventilation in addition to steroids and anticoagulant medicines. Those children who present as M-ISC need IvIg and steroids.
In second wave of covid-19 infection we have experienced a severe shortage of treatment facilities. Many patients died because of shortage of medicines and shortage of oxygenation.
Does flu shot prevent covid-19?
To be clear, the influenza vaccine does not prevent covid-19 disease. Covid-19 is a completely different disease and it is caused due to the new coronavirus. Influenza is caused by the influenza virus.
These two diseases are not the same and they are two different diseases.
Will flu shot help in covid-19 pandemic?
Flu shot does not prevent covid-19 infection but it will help in covid-19 pandemic indirectly.
In the monsoon season and in the winter, children in India are affected by flu and many other diseases.
The healthcare system in India is overloaded with the treatment of flu and other infectious diseases in monsoon season.
The symptoms of both the diseases being equal if someone gets flu we need to rule out covid-19 infection with the tests. Testing facilities will come under severe shortage if the flu epidemic comes.
So inoculating flu vaccine to children and other people will reduce the load on testing facilities and health care facilities.
How will flu shots help you in covid-19 pandemic?
In the above paragraph we have discussed the benefit of the flu vaccine during the covid-19 pandemic. It also will provide some benefits for you in which you may be interested.
Flu vaccines are known to reduce the incidence of influenza by 70 to 90%.
With the reduced incidence of influenza, you don’t need to visit your pediatrician frequently. The visits to clinic or hospitals are reduced.
Flu vaccination also reduces the use of unnecessary antibiotics as it reduces the incidences of the flu.
If the influenza vaccine reduces the flu incidences, the work days of parents are not lost due to the illness of the children.
If the frequency of children falling ill is reduced, their growth occurs in a good way.
What are current recommendations for the flu vaccine?
Though it does not prevent covid-19 infection, the flu vaccine is recommended to prevent influenza disease.
Influenza vaccine prevents swine flu disease.
Swine flu and influenza occur with more intensity in children less than 5 year old.
Probability of death is highest in this age group in children.
Currently flu vaccine is given at 6 and 7 months and then one dose is given yearly till 5 years age.
This vaccine also benefits those who are above 5 years of age and who want to take the vaccine.
This vaccine is also recommended to people who are likely to come in contact with flu patients like healthcare workers.
What is the schedule for the flu vaccine?
As we discussed in above paragraph the vaccine is given to those who are about 6 month of age.
A dose of flu vaccine at 6 months of age and in 7 months of age and then one dose yearly is the schedule recommended for the influenza vaccine.
Dose of flu shots?
Most of the vaccines available in Indian market for flu are given in doses 0.25 ml below age 3 years and 0.5 ml for those who are about three years.
Currently injectable vaccines are available in the market they are given by the injection intramuscularly.
What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?
Side effects of flu vaccine are usually mild and they are as follows:
- Body ache
- Pain at injection site
- Joint pain
- Sometimes vomiting and loose motions.
Some people make it anaphylactic reaction and allergic reaction if they are allergic to the vaccine. Getting an allergic or anaphylactic reaction is extremely there in case of vaccines.
The benefits of the vaccine are much greater than the side effects.
Who should not take the flu vaccine?
If you are allergic to any component of the vaccine or you have got anaphylactic reaction in the past with the vaccine you should not take this vaccine.
These conditions are extremely rare in society.
What precautions are needed before taking the flu vaccine?
Following are some of the precautions you should take before taking the flu vaccine:
- Carry your vaccination card when you are going to your doctor.
- Report a doctor if you have any disease.
- You should tell your doctor if you are allergic to something.
- You should tell your doctor if you are on any treatment for any disease.
- You should discuss side-effects beforehand.
- You should discuss the management of side effects beforehand.
What types of flu vaccines are available?
Currently in India we have multiple brands of flu vaccine available. Currently in India mostly the injectable form of vaccines are used.
Injectable forms of flu vaccines are inactivated vaccines. They contain the real virus for the similar virus in an inactivated form.
The inactivated vaccines are either trivalent or quadrivalent. Trivalent vaccines are cheaper and contain only three strains of the virus. Quadrivalent vaccine, a somewhat costlier and contains four strains of the inactivated virus.
Quadrivalent vaccines are found to be more efficacious than the trivalent vaccines.