UAE - People can now head to their nearby pharmacies for the flu shot as an increasing number of chemist shops in Dubai are administering in-store flu vaccines, with the list only growing longer.
Some pharmacies in Abu Dhabi are already offering the service, while new ones in different emirates are being added to the list.
This comes after the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) last year opined that the initiative is in line with efforts to make healthcare services more accessible to all community members.
Aster Pharmacy, the retail arm of Aster DM Healthcare, is taking a nascent step in this direction by offering in-store flu vaccinations.
Their first stand-alone pharmacy vaccination programme will be launched at Aster Pharmacy 200, located at Al Nahda, Dubai.
The organisation offers flu jabs in the initial rollout phase, and more preventive vaccines against infectious diseases will be added later.
Who's eligible to take the in-stores vaccine?
At present, the Aster vaccination programme will only cater to the adult population between the ages of 16-65 and won’t be available for children, pregnant women, the elderly or anyone who is vulnerable as they may have the need to consult a doctor before taking any shots.
Shiraz Khan, Chief Operating Officer at Aster Retail says, “Now with pharmacies being so close to our customers there is a real opportunity to be able to offer these services. We will start with one and then we will be looking at rolling out to many more pharmacies. Specifically trained pharmacists who have undergone a particular training that the DHA have prescribed will be administering these vaccines. These people are trained and accredited by the DHA.”
Shedding light on the costs he says, “The cost will vary from clinica because when you go to a clinic you may want to have a consultation with the doctor. With the pharmacy, that will not be needed. We will have three vaccines available from different brands and the price will vary One is priced at Dh55, the other one costs Dh60.50 and another one is available for Dh62.50. They are cheaper than ones administered in clinics. As we enhance the myAster App we are looking to add this service as well.”
“We have specifically trained pharmacists and it’s always good to give them a call and check their availability, as at the moment, we don’t know how much demand we will have for this service. But there is no need to make an appointment per se,” he added.
MoHAP earlier stated the decision of making the vaccine available at pharmacies has been taken to improve the ease of taking it, ultimately enhancing the immunisation rate of communities.
MoHAP has also underlined that this will only be allowed subject to the adherence to certain guidelines stipulated by the country’s health authorities.
Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for the Public Health Sector earlier said, “We are doing this to make it easy for the public. People can just walk into the pharmacy and get the vaccine. Some people are busy throughout the day. So, they don't have time to go to a primary health care centre or the hospital, but they can easily go to the nearest pharmacy and ask for the vaccine. There will be charges according to each pharmacy. Each store will have to apply for the service because they need to be licensed by the concerned (health) authority.”
Meanwhile, Life Pharmacy which already houses a clinic inside some of its pharmacies is administering the flu vaccine at a few of its locations.
These include Life Clinic at Muraqabat Deira; Al Wasl Road Jumeirah 1; at White Swan building Sheikh Zayed road; Al Attar Tower Sheikh Zayed road; Concourse 1; Dubai World Trade Centre; Bluewaters; Dubai Marina and Discovery Gardens.
Dubai Health Authority services
Other than the newly added pharmacies, different clinics and various private hospitals in the emirate, residents in Dubai can get influenza shot at any of the health centres operated by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) which mandates everyone to have an MRN number (Medical Record Number).
Residents can also download the ‘DHA’ smartphone application to book an appointment. Other than this, residents can also call the DHA hotline oatn 800 DHA (342).
The cost of the flu vaccine is Dh50, and it is administered free for people of determination (POD), residents who are above the age of 65 and people who suffer from chronic illnesses. Other categories that are exempted to pay the fees include pregnant women and children below five years of age.
Abu Dhabi- Department of Health
DoH also encourages members of the community to get vaccinated, as it is one of the most effective ways to prevent seasonal influenza.
The Department has been working closely with pharmacies in different areas of the Emirate to ensure the availability of vaccines in primary neighbourhoods.
The pharmacies include Al Manara Pharmacy at YAS Mall, Al Thiqa Al Almyiah, Al Thiqa Al Dowaliah and different branches of Al Ain Pharmacy.
Dr Farida Al Hosani the Executive Director of Infectious Disease Sector had said, “DOH adaptation of group of pharmacies to provide influenza vaccination service will extend receiving the vaccine on wider range.”
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