Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
It is that time of the year again when the uncomfortable heat gradually drops low and so the much-needed inoculation against influenza or flu.
On Sunday and in Dubai from the annual “Get the Vaccine, Not the Flu” campaign launch, Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHaP), Department of Health-Abu Dhabi (DoHAUH), and Dubai Health Authority officials jointly asked the public to heed their call for the seasonal flu vaccine.
The vaccine is free of charge in all public health facilities across the UAE particularly for the high-risk categories namely children younger than age five, pregnant women, the chronically ill, elderly, and Emiratis. Private hospitals and clinics charge minimal fees.
“We are not only encouraging the high-risk groups to get vaccinated. We are asking everyone (to get the shot) so we all get protected from all the flu complications,” said MoHaP-Health Centres and Clinics and Public Health assistant undersecretary Dr Hussain Abdulrahman Al Rand.
He added: “I get vaccinated October every year.”
It was a consequent response to the Gulf Today enquiry on updates regarding any progress on the discovery of new flu vaccines which would have much higher potency and much better efficacy rates, and more importantly, “longer lasting effects” that people no longer have to go for the jabs every change of season or climate.
In response, MoHaP-Preventive Medicine Department director Dr. Nada Al Marzouqi stated flu virus strains quickly transmute, there has been no means to manufacture even one long-lasting flu vaccine.
“That is why we always recommend everyone to get the seasonal vaccine. The efficacy of all these vaccines is very high,” she assured.
According to the US agency Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, there are four main flu virus strains classified by the first four letters of the English alphabet.
“Human influenza A and B viruses cause seasonal epidemics of disease. The emergence of a new and very different influenza A virus to infect people can cause an influenza pandemic. Influenza Type C infection generally can be a mild respiratory illness and are not thought to cause epidemics. Influenza D affect cattle.”
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2019 launched the “Global Influenza Strategy 2019-2030” to encourage governments to tailor-made schemes that include the promotion of research and innovation for improved, novel diagnostics and medications in order to prevent the spread of influenza virus not only between individuals but between animals and men.
“The world is interconnected, the next influenza pandemic is believed by many experts to be potentially the most devastating global health event with far reaching consequences.”
WHO claimed that because of the failure to provide or get the necessary seasonal flu vaccine, “every year, there are an estimated one billion cases, three to five million severe cases, and 250,000 to 650,000 influenza-related respiratory deaths.”
From the press conference and on the follow-up question with regards the protection from flu complications which Al Rand had mentioned, DoHAUH-Communicable Diseases Department manager Dr. Farida Al Hosani said the government agency has a systematic surveillance to disease prevention and control whereby pertinent data to all kinds of vaccination programmes are recorded for the immediate and appropriate response.
In the case of flu vaccines and complications, there were zero reports regarding complications arising from the potency or efficacy of the vaccines “which means that all our flu vaccines are effective and safe.”
However, since not everyone goes for the seasonal flu shots, DoHAUH had received reports of complications such as patients being admitted at the intensive care units of hospitals, and even deaths.
“We are calling for everyone to get the flu vaccine. We have invested on this. Vaccination is the cost-effective way to fight flu,” said Al Hosani.
Preventable measures include covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing to reduce the spread of flu viruses, regular hand washing with water and soap, and sanitation, as well as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs that cause flu.
The clinical trial process is usually divided into three phases. The first phase mainly looks into the safety of the vaccine. Phase II evaluates immunogenicity and explores the immunization process in a limited number of individuals. Phase III considers the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in a larger population sample.
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