Flu benefits from your medical aid

Dr Thapelo Motshudi
8 June 2023
6 min read

Flu Vaccine benefits from your medical aid

When we get sick from infections, our immune system responds by producing antibodies to fight off and eliminate the invading pathogens. This process is a crucial part of our immune response and helps protect us from becoming ill again in the future. The immune system has a remarkable ability to "remember" previous infections and mount a rapid and effective response if the same pathogen is encountered again. This phenomenon is known as immunity.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by harnessing the body's immune system and its ability to remember and recognize specific pathogens. A vaccine typically contains either a weakened or inactivated form of the pathogen, or pieces of the pathogen such as proteins or genetic material. When the vaccine is administered, the body's immune system recognizes these components as foreign and mounts an immune response, producing antibodies against them.

The crucial point is that the immune system cannot distinguish between the weakened or inactivated pathogen in the vaccine and the actual infectious pathogen. It treats the components in the vaccine as if they were a real threat and generates an immune response accordingly. This means that when the person is later exposed to the real pathogen, their immune system is already primed and ready to respond effectively. The antibodies that were generated in response to the vaccine can recognise the pathogen and neutralise or eliminate it before it can cause illness.

Why take the flu vaccine each year?

Each year, various strains of the flu virus circulate, requiring the influenza vaccine to be updated accordingly. The purpose of updating the vaccine is to ensure it provides protection against the specific types of viruses that are anticipated to be prevalent in that flu season. Typically, around 2 to 4 new strains of the flu virus emerge each year, and it is important to safeguard against these strains. Although not everyone is eligible to receive the flu vaccine, most healthy individuals aged six and above should not encounter any issues in getting vaccinated.

To mitigate the impact of seasonal flu, vaccination is highly recommended. Each year, a seasonal flu vaccine is developed that targets the most prevalent strains expected to circulate. The vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce protective antibodies against the specific strains, reducing the risk of infection and its associated complications.

Can I still get flu after taking the vaccine?

Yes, you can, and there are several reasons for this. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary for several reasons. Individual responses to the vaccine can differ, especially in very young children and the elderly. If someone is already infected with the flu when they receive the vaccine, it won’t prevent the illness or reduce its severity. The flu vaccine is designed to match the circulating strains, but it may not provide full protection against all strains in a specific area or season. Additionally, flu-like symptoms can be caused by other pathogens, which the vaccine doesn’t protect against. While the flu vaccine is highly recommended, there are factors that can limit its effectiveness for certain individuals.

What are some of the side effects?

After receiving the flu shot, some individuals may experience mild flu-like symptoms such as a low-grade fever, muscle aches, and joint pains. It’s important to note that these symptoms are usually not as severe as those experienced with having the flu. However, it is essential to remember that such reactions are uncommon. Allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are very rare occurrences, but they can happen in a few isolated cases.

With Flu season upon us, majority of medical schemes cover one flu vaccination for their members per annum, here is a break down of the top 4 medical schemes in South Africa and their flu vaccination benefit.

  • Discovery Health Medical Scheme: One seasonal flu vaccine, either from the Screening and Prevention Benefit every year if you are considered at higher risk or from your available day-to-day benefits for those who are not considered to be at high risk for severe flu illness.
  • Fedhealth: One flu vaccination per beneficiary per year from the risk benefit.
  • Bonitas: One flu vaccination per beneficiary per year on all options.
  • Momentum Health: Annual Flu vaccination paid from the Health Platform benefit – children between 6 months and 5 years,65 years and older and members considered as high risk.

Vaccines provide a way to stimulate the immune system to generate an immune response without causing the full-blown disease. By doing so, they create a memory within the immune system that allows for a rapid and effective response when the actual pathogen is encountered, providing immunity against future infections.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968


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