Flu vaccine: Should you get it? Find out with this quick Q&A


Sore throat, runny nose, cough and fever…flu season is upon us again and chances are, you’re going to get it too. Why? Because the flu virus lives longer indoors and thrives in less humid conditions, making autumn and winter the perfect time of year for it to linger and spread.

While most people will struggle with flu symptoms for a couple of days or at most two weeks, others may develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. In fact, between 6 000 and 11 000 people in South Africa die as a result of flu complications every year, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. 

Vaccinated employees can serve as a barrier to limit the spread of influenza within the workplace and wider community by as much as 78%. Source: Abbott

So what’s the best way to prevent the flu? The World Health Organisation recommends the flu vaccine…here’s everything you need to know about the annual jab: 

  1. Is the flu vaccine safe for everyone? With flu vaccinations being safe, effective and used for more than 60 years, the WHO recommends an annual flu vaccination especially for those more at risk of flu complications, including pregnant women, children aged 6 months to 5 years of age, people over the age of 65, people with chronic medical conditions and health workers.
  2. Is the flu vaccine necessary if you’re not at an increased risk of complications? Yes, as an annual flu vaccination can prevent severe illness, reduce time off work or school, and can help limit the spread of flu to loved ones and colleagues. In fact, vaccinated employees can serve as a barrier to limit the spread of influenza within the workplace and wider community by as much as 78%.
  3. What does the flu vaccine actually do? The flu vaccine works by stimulating the immune system to produce its own antibodies against the disease. Contrary to what some people may believe, none of the ingredients in the vaccine can cause actual flu.
  4. When should you get the jab? Although the timing of the flu season varies from year to year in South Africa, it is generally most severe during the winter months of May to August, but can start as early as April or as late as July, with the average duration of the flu season lasting 19 weeks. The best time to get your flu vaccine is before the season starts, ideally as early as March, but getting it later will protect you during the remainder of the season.

Flu vaccinations are currently available at most healthcare providers, pharmacies and clinics in South Africa. For more information, visit Prevent Flu.