Is it compulsory to take the influenza vaccination? Is it safe? Do we have to get it every year? Will it hamper the natural way of developing the body’s immunity system?

The influenza vaccination programme is in its third day and there are, as expected, doubters.  Some are convinced that it is unnecessary, others are encouraging the people to not take their children to get the shot. And many are mistaking it for the Covid-19 vaccine.

The confusions can be understood because the mass flu vaccination happening during the Covi-19 pandemic. Creating awareness, therefore, is important.

What is clear is that it is entirely an individual choice. There is no compulsion, and there is also no guarantee that those who got the shot will never catch the cold again. The healthy ministry and experts, however, recommend everyone to get vaccinated, especially the elderly who are in the vulnerable group. They are vulnerable because it is proven that the older you are, the weaker is your body in developing natural immunity.

The flu vaccine is also not to prevent Covid-19.

The vaccine is free and the health ministry consider it important for many reasons. Flu season is in and the health facilities are burdened with visitors with flu. Symptoms of Covid-19 and flu are similar and this is stretching the resources set aside for Covid-19. Although there is nothing to dread about seasonal flu, it could be fatal to elderly with underlying conditions.

Simply put, vaccination can stop people from getting flu or flu becoming dangerous.

Getting the shot, which takes about a minute and is made available at our conveniences, is also not so much to protect ourselves from a bout of influenza, but for the benefit of the seniors and others without the same immune system, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated. A mass vaccination, experts say, could develop herd immunity against influenza.

While we wait for the Covid-19 vaccine, the best bet is to get what is readily and freely available. We have one for influenza the safety of which is qualified by the World Health Organisation and purchased by the UNICEF.

The message is clear. If you have never gotten one, this would be the best start. We have 80 vaccination stations and the services will be available until January 7.  There are also systems in place to monitor and treat side effects.

However, unlike in many countries where it is made mandatory to get the shot and pay from their own pockets, here in Bhutan it is up to the people to decide. The health ministry encourages people to get vaccinated.