Now, as the wearing of protective masks and social distancing are on the decline, Israeli virologists and epidemiologists advise that the danger of influenza is potentially high. Even though the flu virus changes from year to year and requires an annual shot, reports Prof. Zvi Fridlender, a lung expert and head of an internal medicine department at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, many were not vaccinated last year, so people are less protected.
More importantly, elderly and chronically ill patients of all ages may develop complications from the flu, and hospitals will be overwhelmed, as they still have to cope with mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, he continued. As it is, medical staffers around the world are exhausted by the ongoing pandemic, creating shortages in personnel and medical equipment.
And since the initial symptoms of COVID-19 often resemble flu symptoms, having the flu will cause a lot of confusion.
That’s why Israeli experts are urging people of all ages, from 6-month-old babies, to get vaccinated against influenza as temperatures fall. Though the COVID-19 shots do not interfere with the flu shot and vice versa, it is worth waiting a couple of weeks between them so as not to confuse any minor side effects that might occur from each shot, experts say.
Cancer patients are especially at risk from the flu, says the Israel Cancer Association (ICA), which has just called on oncological patients to get vaccinated against influenza. Since this viral infection is especially dangerous among cancer patients and is associated with high hospitalization and death rates, it’s crucial to prevent or reduce the burden of the disease as much as possible.
ICA chairman and oncologist Prof. Avraham Kuten emphasizes that despite the intense work on the COVID-19 virus and vaccines against the virus, it must not be forgotten that influenza is also here. “Flu is a viral disease characterized by large-scale seasonal outbreaks. Cancer patients, especially those who are in the midst of chemotherapy, have an increased tendency to develop complications as a result of the disease.”
The ICA calls on the family members of cancer patients to get vaccinated so as to reduce the risk of infecting the oncology patient with the flu. It is advisable to get vaccinated as soon as possible because about two weeks pass from the time the vaccine is given until a sufficient level of antibodies is created.