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Oct 15, 2020

Healthy Living: Why Flu Vaccine is More Important than Ever in 2020

These days, the slightest tickle in our throats makes us all a bit nervous. Just a year ago, we would have easily dismissed such a symptom as a cold or flu. But this year, things are different.  This is why health experts globally agree that getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever.  We find out why in tonight’s healthy living.

 

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

It may not be the vaccine that we are all anxiously awaiting, but the influenza vaccine is an equally important tool in our health arsenal. Even though Belize doesn’t have a designated flu season, there is usually an increase in flu cases near the end of each year.

 

Fernando Cuellar

Dr. Fernando Cuellar, Internist, Belize Medical Associates

“We got hot weather and cold weather. Or paint weather and dry weather but at the end of the year around this time. This is when we see an increased number of respiratory illnesses. The flu is one of them.”

 

The flu shot is produced annually, providing coverage for the flu strains that scientists expect to be more common.

 

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“So it gives you like point one percent of the dies itself. It triggers your immune system, and that’s how a vaccine works. You get like a point one percent of the whole hundred so that your body can respond to it and make antibodies so that when you get confronted with the real virus, it has done have a defense. So that’s how vaccines work.  You might tell people you might still have flu-like symptoms, some sniffles. But what it does is minimize the risk that you get serious. So I’d have less likelihood of getting pneumonia. And ending up in the hospital correct. The flu vaccine is recommended strongly for the vulnerable group, those over sixty or sixty-five people with other conditions, especially respiratory conditions, bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, people who have HIV, people who have any time of immune-compromised. Those are the first to seek, and the general public, if possible, get theirs too.”

 

Now, these vulnerable groups are similar to those most at risk for severe forms of COVID-19. And while there are similarities between symptoms of COVID-19 and the regular flu, they are two different illnesses caused by two different viruses. And early studies show that you can have both – at the same time, why doctors are urging people to get their flu shot.

 

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“Studies have shown that both the COVID and the flu can co-exist. So imagine if you have that, it’s a double whammy. So you can have both the COVID and flu virus. The other way of looking at it is that the flu vaccine, although it’s not one hundred percent fool proof. It does reduce your chances of getting the flu or getting it seriously. By getting people to vaccinate, it will take the way that burden that hey this is more than likely is not the flu because he or she has had a flu vaccine. It helps the people who work in healthcare that when this person comes with respiratory symptoms and had a flu vaccine a couple of weeks ago, then the chance of it being flu is less, so let me not waste time and think it’s just the flu and go right to COVID.”

 

This year, the Ministry of Health has secured forty thousand flu vaccines to be administered for free at public health clinics. It is currently available to specific vulnerable groups, which include:

1) children six to twenty-three months;

2) adults sixty-five years and older;

3) health care workers;

4) and persons with heart or lung disease, including asthma and chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney conditions, and HIV.

 

You can also get your flu shot at private institutions, like BMA, for a fee. Dr. Cuellar notes that they have seen a lot of interest from the public in getting the vaccine this year.

 

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“I tell you for the past month, month and a half people have been calling do you have the flu vaccine. They are hearing they are reading. They are exposed to what’s happening in the world, and that’s the recommendation. But there is definitely a; I was getting upset with our people that we weren’t getting our flu vaccine quick enough because there is a demand for it.

 

Marleni Cuellar

“And what is the cost?”

 

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“I think it’s about seventy-five dollars in Belize for a flu vaccine.”

 

Marleni Cuellar

“And it lasts for…?”

 

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“It lasts for the year. It is a yearly thing.”

 

He adds that all persons – not just those considered vulnerable – can benefit from getting vaccinated. It’s hoped that with increased flu vaccination and strict adherence to Covid preventative behaviors, there should be fewer flu cases making people sick and requiring medical attention.

 

Dr. Fernando Cuellar

“Hey, maybe we should not be seeing so many numbers of flu of gastro-enteritis or these kids of transmissions. Because everyone should be washing their hands, everybody has on face mask but a lot compared to last year. We weren’t wearing any. So I am anxious to see the numbers that will be presenting for this year. We’re hoping that is the case.”


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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