South Africa

Maverick Citizen: Coronavirus

Letter to the Editor: Still a role for flu vaccine

Letter to the Editor: Still a role for flu vaccine
Illustrative image source: AdobeStock

There is still a role for the pneumococcal vaccine and even more so for the annual influenza vaccine in preparing for the arrival of Savid-19 (coronavirus disease) in South Africa.

The Daily Maverick Coronavirus Special Edition on 2 March 2020 states, under “Facts of the Day”, that “The vaccine for pneumonia does not provide protection against the new coronavirus”.

While absolutely true, there is still a role for the pneumococcal vaccine and even more so for the annual influenza vaccine in preparing for the arrival of Savid-19 (coronavirus disease) in South Africa.

The rationale behind this is that (1) fewer cases of influenza and pneumococcal illness will lessen the burden on our healthcare system that will be under serious strain when Covid-19 strikes; (2) fewer medical staff ill with influenza will improve our ability to cope with the expected surge of Covid-19 patients; (3) co-infections with influenza and/or pneumococcus may make Covid-19 illness worse, especially in risk groups; and (4) people suffering from influenza may be flagged as suspected Covid-19 cases needing testing, risk being put in isolation, and taking up precious resources.

Last but not least, better utilisation of influenza and pneumococcal vaccines by those for whom these are recommended would be beneficial in any case and regardless of Covid-19, seeing that every year, on average, 11,000 South Africans are believed to die due to influenza.

So while your statement is 100% correct, it misses what many colleagues believe to be important points. DM

Wolfgang Preiser is Professor and Head: Division of Medical Virology, Department of Pathology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences Stellenbosch University and National Health Laboratory Services Tygerberg

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