Understanding The Importance Of Influenza Vaccine For Children
A vaccine taken at the right time can improve immunity and safeguard people against infections like influenza.
High moisture content in the air during the monsoon increases the risk of infections
India typically experiences monsoon from June to September and as refreshing it may feel, the onset of rain brings with them a host of diseases and infections like dengue, malaria, diarrhea, influenza etc. of which influenza is preventable by timely vaccination. These infections can pose a serious range of health threats, especially for children below 5 years and individuals with co-morbid conditions.
High moisture content in the air during the monsoon increases the risk of being exposed to multiple viruses and infections like common cold and influenza. Given the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, preventing these infections and diseases is the best way to stay safe. One of the most effective and proven ways to prevent these infections is through vaccination. A vaccine taken at the right time can improve immunity and safeguard people against these infections. And the right time for influenza vaccination in India is between April - June, before the monsoons start.
While some vaccines are required to be taken only few times in a lifetime, vaccines for some seasonal infections like Influenza need to be taken every year. This is because every year with the changes in the virus strains, the vaccines also change to work against them. While the seasonal influenza vaccine may protect throughout one flu season, the antibodies produced after receiving the vaccine decline over time. It is therefore important to make vaccination a yearly affair for sustained immunity.
Over the decades, influenza vaccine has shown good safety record and efficacy against influenza disease. Hence getting vaccinated is the best way to reduce the chances of catching influenza and spreading it to others. Both influenza and covid-19 have similar symptoms. Having said that, influenza vaccine may prove to be beneficial for children in the age group of 6 months-5 years in these unprecedented times by preventing influenza. Same also is applicable for individuals with co-morbid conditions like asthma, COPD and other chronic diseases.
In the past several years, we have learned our lesson of importance of timely vaccination and hence getting an influenza vaccine before the onset of monsoon will not just safeguard against the virus but help reduce the burden on our already stressed healthcare system especially during COVID-19 pandemic time.
(Dr. Nitin Shah is a Section Head, Pediatrics at P.D. Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai and Past President at the Indian Academy of Pediatrics)
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