In a proactive step to safeguard public health, a top official from the Infectious Disease Sector at Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, said that high-risk groups like pregnant women, people with medical conditions and chronic diseases, children, and the elderly should take influenza shots as early as possible.

“We have a special focus on high-risk groups who are more prone to complications. Every year we encourage and remind the residents that this is the best time of the year to take the vaccine,” said Dr Farida Al Hosani, executive director of the Infectious Disease Sector at Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, speaking with Khaleej Times.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) launched the annual national seasonal influenza awareness campaign under the theme, ‘Protect Yourself... Protect Your Community.’

The campaign is in collaboration with the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and Emirates Health Services (EHS) with the goal of heightening immunity against influenza and minimizing the risk during the colder months. The campaign is set to run from September 2023 to March 2024.

The campaign aims to impart knowledge to healthcare professionals regarding international best practices for influenza prevention and ensure vaccines are readily accessible to target demographics while boosting vaccination rates.

In this season, the ministry encourages residents to take the influenza vaccine which is available in quadrivalent. “There are four different strains of influenza, and we provide it throughout the year. The cases usually start to rise from October until March and should be taken at the beginning of the season and the peak of influenza is usually recorded during December and January,” said Dr Al Hosani.

The influenza vaccine, commonly known as the flu shot, is a preventive measure to protect against the seasonal flu virus. “The vaccine is available in health care facilities and primary health centres across the country. The EHS has around 134 facilities where the vaccines are available in Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, and Fujairah,” said Dr Shamsa Lootah, director of the Public Health Services Department at Emirates Health Services.

The vaccines are available for free of charge for certain groups and for others, it is available at Dh 50. “For pregnant ladies, children below 5 years of age, and for the chronic disease it is available free of cost,” said Dr Lootah.

She encouraged the public to get vaccinated and adhere to precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the virus, thereby safeguarding their own well-being and that of the broader community and averting potential complications arising from influenza infections.

MoHAP's campaign emphasizes the following key points:

Early Vaccination: Residents are urged to get their influenza shots as soon as possible, preferably before the peak of the flu season in December and January.

High-Risk Groups: Priority will be given to high-risk groups, including the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and individuals with underlying health conditions. These groups are more vulnerable to severe complications from influenza.

To ensure widespread awareness, the initiative will be promoted through various channels, including social media platforms, newspapers, websites, television, and radio. Furthermore, visual awareness content will be distributed through television channels and news websites to reinforce the campaign's message.

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