Officials speak to media during the launch of flu awareness campaign in Dubai.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
The UAE national and federal government health officials have urged residents to go for their annual seasonal flu vaccination as a protection against the contagious respiratory disease, different from the novel coronavirus, another infectious respiratory illness, though both exhibit similar signs and symptoms and may be misconstrued from each other.
Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHaP)-Public Health Sector assistant undersecretary Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, MoHaP-Immunisation Department head Dr Laila Al Jasmi, MoHaP-Public Health & Prevention Department director Dr Nada Al Marzouki, Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre-Infectious Diseases Sector executive director Dr Farida Al Hosani, Dubai Health Authority-Health Promotion & Education Section head Dr Hind Al Awadhi, and Emirates Health Services-Public Health Services Department director Dr Shamsa Majed Lootah met the press for the launch of the "Protect Yourself, Protect Your Community-National Seasonal Flu Awareness Campaign 2021" on Monday morning at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City.
The launch was held before the onset of the winter/cold season, when seasonal flu (anfilunza in Arabic, trangkaso in Filipino, flue in Hindi and floo in Urdu) hits, for enough lead time to secure the jab from any of the public and private health facilities across the seven emirates.
The launch was held, even as in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 global disaster, seasonal flu cases dwindled. For instance, in Dubai alone and according to Al Awadhi, people had become more aware and conscious of the significance of the value of vaccines.
She added that the observance of all the precautionary measures against the SARS-CoV2-caused upper respiratory illness, was a big help in preventing or containing any possible outbreak. "People should not ignore flu," said Al Rand, adding that worldwide records sourced from the World Health Organisation (WHO) had shown that between 200,000 to 500,000 die from flu complications each year even as this is preventable.
According to the WHO, seasonal flu outbreaks and epidemics from across the globe result in three to five million severe cases per year. In response to Gulf Today's concern that people may shun even the idea of having themselves inoculated as they are already fully vaccinated from the COVID19, both Al Marzouki and Al Hosani explained that the make and composition of the vaccines for both respiratory diseases are different from each other.
For one, the seasonal flu is due to mutating influenza viruses particularly of the strains and sub-strains of A,B and C. COVID-19 arises from the SARS-CoV2 and its variants.
Al Marzouki said: "They are different vaccines. It is good that they are updated with their vaccines (so they are protected from the seasonal flu and COVID19)."
"The composition of the (seasonal flu and COVID-19) vaccines are different. The influenza vaccine has the inactivated influenza virus. COVID-19 vaccines depend on the (research and development outcomes) by the different (pharmaceutical companies)," said Al Hosani.
She pointed out that the seasonal flu and COVID-19 shots must be taken at least 14 days apart from the last vaccination date.
In an answer to another open forum question relative to the COVID-19, Al Hosani said that available across the country are at least two tests that determine whether one is suffering from the seasonal flu or COVID-19.
Her advice is that for those in doubt to avail of these so that appropriate medications and other health procedures are immediately undertaken. Based on World Health Organisation Seasonal Flu Protocols and as presented at the campaign objectives by Al Jasmi, expectant mothers, children under age five, the elderly, the chronically ill and those at risk of acquiring it must get the jab. It is deferred to those under the weather with acute illnesses.
Al Hosani said the only "category" exempted are those with "severe reactions with other vaccines for which they must seek medical advice."
The seasonal flu vaccine is free-of-charge to all Emiratis and those at risk of acquiring it. They may get it from any of the public health facilities across the country.
Expatriates pay a minimum fee of Dhs50.00. Private clinics and hospitals charge according to existing rates as those who avail may pay out-of-pocket and depending on the type of their health insurance.
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