Citizens are being urged to do their part to help protect the country against COVID-19 getting their flu vaccinations early.

The call came from Director of Women’s Health at the Ministry of Health Dr Adesh Sirjusingh yesterday at the ministry’s virtual press conference.

“If we have a bad flu season, these additional flu cases require the exact same resources as patients with COVID-19. They need general hospital beds, HDU (High Dependency Unit) and ICU (Intense Care Unit) beds. The flu is also a cause of deaths with over 41 documented cases in the last season spanning from 2019 to 2020,” Sirjusingh explained.

He said any sharp rise in COVID-positive cases places additional strain on the health system and by protecting yourself against the flu, citizens would be protecting the parallel healthcare system.

Manager of the expanded programme on immunisation Dr Grace Soochand said those who took the vaccine during the last flu season would need to retake it this year, as vaccines need to be regularly updated to match the viruses in circulation.

“Vaccine effectiveness can vary and recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40 to 60 per cent amongst the populations during seasons in which the most circulating viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccines,” she said.

The peak flu season locally runs between October to May of any given year and with October here, she said citizens should get their vaccines early to fully reap the benefits and protect themselves.

“We are therefore urging the population to take the vaccines early because it takes approximately two weeks for persons to build immunity against the virus,” she said.