As Israel struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, health officials warned on Sunday that a particularly virulent flu season is looming.
The annual flu-shot campaign was launched on Sunday and will run parallel to the ongoing drive to vaccinate against Covid, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The pandemic effectively wiped out the flu, and since March 2020, no cases of the flu have been recorded. Dr. David Mossinson, the chief medical officer for Meuhedet Health Services, said that the respite from influenza was likely to end by November.
Mossinson explained that the flu was absent last year because people were wearing masks, staying home during lockdowns, and schools were closed, greatly limiting the social contact that spreads the flu.
However, Israel and other countries witnessed an uptick “in respiratory viruses and infections,” when people started ditching their masks, Mossinson said. “There was an unusual and unexpected increase in respiratory infections that usually characterize the winter months. The result was a significant burden on the health system that we do not normally see in the summer months – and this phenomenon was also reported worldwide.” Hence the flu shot drive and a re-emphasis on masks and other precautions.
The flu and Covid vaccines can be give at the same time, though ideally in different limbs.
“Last year, when we started vaccinating in December, we lacked information about the new Covid vaccines so we did not allow people to take them together,” Mossinson told the Post.
He said that people should rush to get their vaccines before the end of next month when the flu is expected to arrive.
Could taking the flu vaccine help ward off Covidand vice versa?
“We have some preliminary evidence,” Mossinson said. “But usually, people who take their vaccines are also people who are more aware of their health and I think that has more to do with it.”
“There is nothing that is evidence based so far,” he said, “but maybe, we will see.”