UAE doctors urge residents to request latest flu vaccine

Advice extends to all age groups to avoid an outbreak of the virus this winter

A girl being vaccinated. Getty Images
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Healthy UAE residents as well as at-risk groups must ensure they are vaccinated to avoid any outbreak of flu this winter, authorities said on Sunday.

Officials stressed that the common infection was particularly susceptible to mutations, meaning previous vaccinations could be rendered ineffective.

Launching a new programme to encourage all UAE residents to get the latest jab, experts said Emiratis would not be charged for the new vaccine.

Authorities also said anyone considered more vulnerable to the virus, such as the elderly, would be vaccinated for free regardless of their nationality.

“It is important to prevent people from getting serious infections, not only those most at risk with low immunity, but also healthy people,” said Dr Hussain Al Rand of the Ministry of Health and Prevention.

“I would advise everyone to take this new vaccine so they avoid any complications from the virus.”

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over six-months-old be vaccinated annually against flu.

The 2018 strain of the respiratory infection proved particularly lethal in Dubai, with schoolgirl Alia Niyaz Ali dying from complications associated with the virus.

Although government figures are not available for the vaccine’s uptake in 2018-19, NMC Hospitals, one of the UAE’s largest private healthcare providers, said it delivered about 1,300 jabs to residents across the country between October last year and March this year.

It said it was charging non-Emiratis Dh42.50 for a shot of the latest anti-viral medication when stocks were supplied next week.

“This year's annual flu shot will offer protection against three or four of the influenza viruses expected to be in circulation this flu season,” said Dr Abid Ali Anwaar at the NMC Family Medical Centre in Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi.

“Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year's vaccine may not protect you from this year's viruses.”

Dr Badreyya Al Harmi, director of public health protection at the Dubai Healthcare Corporation, also urged residents to ensure they received the jab.

“Every year we see cases of people who have not taken up their vaccines and have suffered complications as a result,” she said.

“We have seen people admitted to intensive care because of complications around the virus and some have even died.

“As government health authorities, we all recommend that people get vaccinated to prevent these complications.”