The influenza vaccine can protect high-risk groups from developing life threatening complications such as pneumonia and inflammation of the lungs.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Epidemiologist, associate professor Dr Malina Osman said that pregnant women, the elderly, individuals with chronic diseases and children, who are in the high-risk groups, have low immunity and face difficulties in recovering from the influenza virus.

"Healthy individuals with good immune system usually recover within a week because their bodies produce antibodies to fight the infection, just by taking fever medicine, vitamin C and resting.

"But high-risk individuals will experience severe respiratory problems such as pneumonia or inflammation of the lungs, which requires admission at intensive care units or in the worst case scenario become fatal,” she told Bernama.

Dr Malina welcomed the government's initiative to study the need for influenza shots, especially for those at risk, and said it is the norm in four-season countries for influenza infections to occur between November to January or March to June but in tropical countries like Malaysia, it is present throughout the year.

"This means, at least one dose of vaccination is required to fight it here in Malaysia. For this reason, it is a good idea for the government to provide the vaccine as it will strengthen their immune system. But they should also avoid going to crowded places and wear face masks to prevent infections," she said.

Meanwhile, KPJ Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital's internal medicine and infectious diseases Consultant, associate professor Dr Muhamad Yazli Yuhana, said although influenza cases are within the normal range currently, it is still better to get vaccinated.

"The influenza virus weakens a person's immunity, causing them to experience symptoms, such as, sore throat, watery eyes, cold, cough, high fever, body aches and wheezing (breathing difficulties).

"Therefore, providing the vaccine or making it mandatory for those at risk will give them maximum protection. The influenza strains also constantly evolve from year to the year and with the changing seasons,” he said.

Bernama's survey of several private clinics in the Klang Valley found influenza vaccines for adults and children being priced between RM70-RM105, with some running out of stock.

Klinik Hero, Klinik Anda and Klinik Famili in Wangsa Melawati here, offer the vaccines at between RM70 and RM100, while Klinik As-Salam in Lembah Keramat charges RM104.

Government health clinics and hospitals only provide it for front-line personnel.

According the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) July 19 data, influenza samples were taken from 23,354 individuals in Malaysia from the first to the 27th week (July 3) of this year, out of which 4,271 people tested positive, approaching figures recorded in Australia, which is 4,288.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency