A fierce flu season is expected: immunising early is the best defence


One of the best ways to be mindful of your own and others' health this March is to protect against, and prevent the spread of, the frighteningly contagious influenza virus. Here’s why getting immunised early offers you the best defence.

Colder months are almost here, which means the time has come for us in the southern hemisphere to take up our yearly fight against flu. Current reports from the United States, which usually sees a peak in the occurrence of flu around February, have called the recent strain of flu ‘formidable’. This is in response to an upsurge of flu cases that led to a higher-than-usual number of hospitalisations and other complications.

“There are many different strains and strengths of flu viruses that are always changing. While some let these viruses run their course, people have to know that complications from flu, such as pneumonia and the effects of flu combined with other health conditions, can be deadly,” warns Dr Noluthando Nematswerani, Head of the Centre for Clinical Excellence at Discovery Health.

Avoid severe flu-related complications by vaccinating in March or April

The most effective way to give your body extra power to fight off the flu or to protect yourself against its severe complications, says Dr Nematswerani, is to get a flu vaccine before the flu season starts. “This year, we urge everyone, but especially those who are at a high risk for developing complications, to get vaccinated early in March or April.”

“We usually get similar strains of flu to the ones in the US and given the high rate of complications being reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention following their recent flu season, early vaccination can help reduce cases here. The best time to get vaccinated is usually during March or April before the virus spreads through more people being infected. But, really, you will benefit from having a flu injection at any time during winter,” she says.     

Who should be vaccinated?

According to Dr Nematswerani says, “We would recommend the registered, seasonal flu injection for everyone. But complications more often occur in children younger than five, people older than 65, pregnant women, people living in care facilities, and in anyone with a chronic health condition, for example asthma, heart or kidney disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system. So, it is beneficial to develop antibodies against a current strain of flu virus by being vaccinated early every year.”

Vaccines give protective antibodies and do not cause flu 

Dr Nematswerani says it takes about two weeks following a flu injection to develop antibodies and confirms that a flu injection will not make you sick. It could happen that you were exposed to the flu virus before or during the two-week period it takes to develop virus antibodies. She also reminds that other illnesses, including a common cold, can have similar symptoms to the flu. 

Receiving a flu vaccination cannot give you the flu. It simply enables your body to develop the antibodies necessary to ward off influenza viruses. Even when the flu vaccine is not a strong match with the prevalent flu viruses, the flu vaccine can either ward off flu or reduce the severity of a flu infection.

Check how your medical scheme pays

Dr Nematswerani says that some medical schemes, such as Discovery Health Medical Scheme, provide cover for flu injections from available day-to-day benefits. When you are registered on the Chronic Illness benefit for certain conditions, the medical scheme may also cover your vaccination in full, because you are taking steps to prevent complications.

With flu season fast approaching, be extra mindful of flu and its complications. The call to take action is clear:  have your flu injection soon for added protection against complications. Flu vaccines are safe, proven to protect and are available at clinics, doctors’ rooms and at most pharmacies.


Discovery Health Medical Scheme covers your flu shots

The Discovery Health Medical Scheme (DHMS) provides cover for flu injections from the available funds allocated to members’ Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), depending on their plan.

In cases where members are registered for cover for a chronic condition, the Scheme may also pay it from their Screening and Prevention benefit because they are taking steps to prevent complications. Learn more about the clinical entry criteria and screening and prevention benefits here.

Get rewarded for protecting their health

Discovery Vitality members can earn up to 20 000 points by doing a Vitality Health Check at an accredited Vitality Wellness Centre, a Vitality Wellness Network pharmacy, a Discovery Store or a Discovery Wellness Day. This screening includes checking your blood pressure, blood glucose / HbA1c, cholesterol, weight assessment and smoking habits.

You can also earn 1 000 Vitality points for getting a flu vaccination this season. See what other Vitality screening and prevention benefits you qualify for here.

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