The health authorities will start administering the influenza vaccine to the vulnerable from the third week of October, with no gap necessary between the flu jab and the COVID-19 booster dose.

The annual flu vaccine drive will get underway as the health authorities gear up to administer booster shots to people aged 70 and over.

The booster shots have already been given to all people in elderly care homes.

Earlier this summer, the health authorities were still uncertain on whether some time is required between administering the doses of different vaccines. But it has now been ascertained that, while there is a wait of weeks between the first and second COVID-19 jabs, it is not needed between the COVID and flu vaccines. 

The influenza vaccine can be administered “at any interval following or prior to the COVID-19 booster dose”, a spokesperson for the health ministry said.

“The interval is only important between the first COVID dose and the influenza vaccine so as not to confuse any side effects from the two. This is not relevant for the booster dose as the side effects, if any, would already have been known,” the spokesperson said. 

The government has 200,000 doses of the flu vaccine on order. 

“During the first two weeks of the flu vaccine roll-out, priority will be given to people over 55 years, those with chronic diseases, the immunosuppressed, health workers as well as members of the Armed Forces of Malta, Civil Protection and the police,” the spokesperson said. 

Unlike the COVID-19 vaccine, the flu vaccine can also be purchased privately. Last year’s influenza vaccine drive was highly successful, with many heeding the health authorities’ advice to get vaccinated so as to avoid the risk of contracting both flu and the novel coronavirus at the same time.

Public health superintendent Charmaine Gauci is urging people to take the flu jab again this year, telling Times of Malta there have already been warnings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of a harsh influenza season to come. 

Luckily, few people fell ill with the flu last year, she said, which she attributed to the vaccine as well as the measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. These included rigorous hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing. 

Gauci has also urged those who feel unwell to stay at home, saying this is especially important for children who should not be sent to school if they are showing any symptoms.

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