The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about this year's flu season and whether to get vaccinated amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Question: Should I get a flu vaccine now that it's getting colder?
Answer: The flu season usually starts on a full scale in November or December every year. There is concern that medical institutions will be hit with turmoil this winter, as symptoms that appear in the early stages of influenza, such as a fever and coughing, are similar to those of the coronavirus -- which may surge again during that period. For that reason, the Japanese government is advising elderly people and others who are at increased risk of developing severe conditions to get inoculated.
Q: Won't there be a big rush of people who want to get vaccinated?
A: To prevent confusion, the national government has called for prioritization of certain patients, and asked for younger people to refrain from getting inoculated so that just those aged 65 and older could receive it up to Oct. 25. From Oct. 26, other people could be vaccinated, and the government is calling for pregnant women, children aged from six months to those in the second grade, individuals with chronic conditions and health care workers to get vaccinated early on.
Q: Can children develop severe symptoms when they get infected with the flu?
A: In rare cases, children can develop severe encephalopathy, and some pediatricians recommended that children get inoculated early on, regardless of the government's policy. However, it seems that many kids started getting vaccinated after Oct. 26.
Q: You're safe if you get vaccinated, right?
A: No, you cannot completely prevent influenza with vaccines alone. You need to continue taking infection countermeasures such as washing your hands.
Q: Will there be enough vaccines for everyone in Japan?
A: The national government is urging vaccine manufacturers to increase production, and is expecting supplies for up to around 63 million people. But it is possible for some areas to temporarily lack stocks if supplies are not dispersed equally across Japan. This is why the government is asking medical institutions to avoid hoarding flu vaccines.
(Japanese original by Go Kumagai, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)