Some say vaccine helps, writes Amanda Ngudle

Prevention may be better than cure, but it may also be hazardous to our immune systems. Having gone through a volatile summer, chances are that winter will have seven heads. Most people will be itching for a flu vaccine at the first signs of the cold season.

Prevention may be better than cure, but it may also be hazardous to our immune systems. Having gone through a volatile summer, chances are that winter will have seven heads. Most people will be itching for a flu vaccine at the first signs of the cold season.

Given as one injection in the upper arm, the vaccine contains dead flu viruses that won't cause the flu, but will prepare the body to fight off infection by the live flu virus.

Letitia Kekana, a general practitioner says: "Getting a shot of the dead virus means a person is protected against that particular type of live flu virus if he or she comes into contact with it."

Kekana advises: "Although you can get a flu shot well into the flu season, it's best to get it earlier rather than later."

But some health workers believe a body must go through stages for the body to establish and strengthen its own healing mechanisms.

Pharmacist Khalipha Godongwane says: "We live in a profit-driven world and unnecessary products and services are constantly being peddled with false claims of bringing great benefit.

"In the 10 years I have been in this industry I have seen more flu-vaccine junkies suffering from recurring flu bouts than unvaccinated patients," Godongwane says.

She believes a healthy immune system should be left to fight its own battles.

"The body uses flu to rid itself of toxins. We have an immune system with a primary use of protecting us against infections and I don't see how a body can benefit from our disruption of this natural mechanism."

Who should consider taking the vaccine?

l Adults with chronic lung or heart disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, severe anaemia or immune deficiency (including HIV-Aids);

l Pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and places that care for people with chronic medical conditions;

l Health workers, police, firefighters, public safety workers;

l Those travelling to the tropics at any time or the southern hemisphere from April to September;

l Everyone older than 50.

Who should not get a flu shot:

lPeople allergic to eggs and egg products;

l Infants younger than 6 months;

l People who have had a reaction to the vaccine before;

l Anyone with a fever.

X