The City of Cape Town’s Health Department made flu vaccines available as part of its preventative primary health-care programme.
This year 14,500 vaccinations are available at City facilities, with an additional 26,500 available via facilities operated by the Western Cape Government’s Health Department.
Preference will be given to vulnerable groups like expectant women, HIV infected people, adults and children with diseases such as chronic lung disease, asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney and liver disorders and cancer.
People who are older than 65 years, especially residents who are residing in old-age homes, are also recognised as vulnerable groups.
Each year City Health ensures that communities, especially those in high-risk and vulnerable groupings, have access to these vaccinations at primary health-care facilities.
“We are all susceptible to flu, which is why it is so important to get vaccinated. The vaccine which protects against the most flu viruses is safe and the best time to get vaccinated is before the start of winter.
“The sooner those in vulnerable groups approach their local clinic to get vaccinated the better,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Zahid Badroodien.
Flu vaccines are available free of charge at most of the City’s health facilities and once administered it will provide protection that lasts between six and eight months.
Although most of those vaccinated won’t contract the influenza virus, they are still susceptible to the common cold virus which can present similar symptoms to that of flu.
Vaccination also reduces the risk of a patient being hospitalised as in some cases flu symptoms can lead to more serious bacterial infections, if not treated timeously.
Apart from vaccination, City Health also implements various preventative awareness programmes, which assist in minimising the risk of contracting influenza, such as advocating good hand hygiene.
Good hygiene includes small daily actions such as washing one’s hands regularly and not touching or rubbing one’s eyes. It is also hygienic to cover one’s mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing as this can stop the spread of germs.
Clinics are also geared towards treating flu and related infections where they occur.
“It is often asked if one should be vaccinated when one experiences flu symptoms, but this will unfortunately not clear the infection as the vaccine could take up to two weeks to develop antibodies.
“Prevention is better than cure. Vaccination is most effective when it is administered preventatively.
“We would like to encourage residents to visit City clinics as soon as possible and to get vaccinated so that they have an extra protection barrier against the flu virus. In this regard, parents play an important role to ensure that their children are vaccinated.
“We also call on community organisations to help us to ensure that the vulnerable groups have the opportunity to be vaccinated,” said Badroodien.