The pandemic that we are currently experiencing has accentuated the need to protect risk groups, such as people over 65 years old, and those who, regardless of the age group to which they belong, suffer from chronic diseases. We are in the middle of the flu season, a period, in itself, of greater fragility, this year accompanied by fears and uncertainties.
Should I wear a mask? Should I protect myself? Should I get vaccinated? The answer to these and many other similar questions is: yes, we must protect ourselves. The epidemiological situation of the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet consolidated, neither in Portugal nor in the rest of the world. The approaching cold season should bring with it a significant increase in the number of cases of infection and, therefore, it is imperative to strengthen prevention measures, such as immunization against influenza and pneumonia.
Let’s do what we can to make our immune system more robust. If we still don’t have a solution for COVID-19, we must focus on preventing what we can: fortunately, most flu and pneumonia can be avoided through vaccination.
Among the multiple complications brought on by the flu, pneumonia is considered one of the most serious. Studies show that the flu virus increases the risk of contracting it tens of times. Particularly frequent at this time of year, the flu creates conditions in the respiratory system for pneumonia to develop. If there were any doubts, statistics show us that the time of highest prevalence of pneumonia coincides with the seasonal peaks of infection by the Influenza virus.
Prevention through pneumococcal vaccination and influenza vaccination is the best way to avoid both diseases, especially among the most fragile, for whom a flu can quickly turn into pneumonia, and also for whom either of them can leave serious sequelae or reveal become fatal.
Among the groups at greatest risk are children, the elderly and the chronically ill. Everyone has an indication for the pneumococcal vaccine, and, in the case of adults, a single dose is enough.
WE CAN ALL HAVE AN ACTIVE ROLE
Getting pneumonia is, and always will be, serious. Getting pneumonia at the height of flu and during a pandemic is much worse: at this time, our immune system is more fragile and, therefore, more likely to fail. Alongside the usual number of cases of hospitalization for flu and pneumonia, at this time of year, there are those that have given us so many headaches in recent months: those infected with COVID-19.
The overload of health services and available equipment must be avoided as much as possible and we can all play an active role. More than treating pneumonia at this point, we must prevent it. By getting vaccinated, in addition to our individual health, we are benefiting public health and contributing to a reduction in the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
PERCENTAGE OF VACCINATED REMAINS LOW
The General Directorate of Health launched a standard that recommends pneumococcal vaccination to all adults belonging to risk groups. The vaccine is free for children and for high-risk groups, for those who are in the National Vaccination Program, but its effectiveness is much broader and has been proven in all age groups. The official document is already 5 years old, however, the percentage of people vaccinated remains too low.
In addition to pneumococcal and influenza vaccination, preventive measures for this time of year include wearing a mask, controlling associated diseases, abandoning habits such as smoking or alcoholism, and adopting healthy practices, including physical exercise. , a balanced diet and fluid intake, along with the fundamental regular hand hygiene.