United Arab Emirates: Flu season is underway; get vaccinated two weeks in advance, urges the Ministry of Health


Dubai: With the winter flu season approaching, health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have urged residents, especially those at high risk, to get vaccinated against the flu.

Flu cases increase with the onset of the winter months and the flu season in the UAE usually peaks between October and February. Since the flu vaccine takes two weeks to build immunity, health officials have urged residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

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

The campaign targets a wide spectrum of society, giving top priority to pregnant women, people aged 50 and over, people with chronic diseases, children under five years of age and healthcare workers.

How to get vaccinated

Hundreds of government and private health centers in the UAE provide the flu vaccine to residents. A quadrivalent flu vaccine is available in the United Arab Emirates that provides protection against four strains of viruses.

In Abu Dhabi, the flu vaccine is provided free of charge to all residents in government hospitals, schools and universities. MoHAP is offering the flu vaccine free of charge to Emiratis and those in high-risk categories. In Dubai, the DHA is providing the vaccine in all government hospitals and primary health care centres. It is free for Emiratis and residents of high-risk groups. In private hospitals, the flu vaccine costs between Dh50 and Dh125, depending on the centre.

About the flu

Seasonal influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness that spreads primarily through inhalation of droplets dispersed in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

Its transmission can also occur through contact with surfaces or materials contaminated with the influenza virus, followed by touching the face, specifically the mouth, nose or eyes.

Hence, it is vital to cultivate habits that prevent the proliferation of infection, such as covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, regular hand washing, and routine cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and implements.

Why vaccinate?

Vaccination offers numerous benefits, such as reducing the chances of flu infection, hospitalizations, and flu-related deaths, especially in children. Although the flu vaccine does not guarantee complete immunity, several studies have shown its ability to mitigate the severity of the disease.

UAE health officials said people aged six months and older are encouraged to receive the vaccine, keeping in mind that it takes about two weeks for the body to develop immunity against the disease.

The annual campaign was launched by MoHAP in Dubai, in the presence of Mattar Saeed Al Nuaimi, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Center for Public Health.

Also present were Dr Farida Al Hosani, Executive Director of Infectious Diseases at the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre; Dr. Nada Al Marzouqi, Director of the Department of Public Health and Prevention at MoHAP; Dr Shamsa Lootah, Director of Public Health Services Department at Emirates Health Services (EHS); and Dr. Hend Al Awadhi, Head of Health Promotion at Dubai Health Authority (DHA).

National objectives

Officials said the campaign seeks to achieve a number of goals, including reinforcing health awareness throughout society and promoting the critical importance of seasonal influenza vaccination.

It also aims to impart knowledge to healthcare professionals on international best practices for influenza prevention and ensure that vaccines are easily accessible to target demographics while increasing vaccination rates.

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

In a statement issued on the occasion, Dr. Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Deputy Undersecretary of the Public Health Sector, highlighted the importance of the campaign and stated that it not only serves to improve the response capacity of the health system of the UAE to respiratory diseases, but also strengthens existing vital surveillance mechanisms.

“Our concerted efforts to raise awareness and promote vaccination are not just measures but a testament to our commitment to fostering a more sustainable and healthy society,” he said.

“Aligning with the Ministry’s future strategy, we are interested in improving public health standards and fostering a deeply rooted community with an awareness and strong commitment to preventive health protocols. Through thoughtful community health campaigns, we envision a nation marked by superior quality of health and vitality. “Together, we embark on this promising path, shaping a future in which the well-being of every citizen is not just a priority but a reality.”

Community support

He urged the community to support the government’s national initiatives by committing to vaccination and adopting appropriate preventive practices, curbing the spread of seasonal influenza, thereby improving the overall preventive health of the community.

Dr. Farida Al Hosany said: “We call on members of our community to support [our] efforts by receiving the seasonal flu vaccine as soon as possible, since it takes up to two weeks for the body to develop enough immunity to protect against the disease.”

Dr. Nada Hassan Al Marzouqi emphasized that proactive health programs, focusing on influenza prevention and promoting the importance of vaccination, constitute a vital facet of preventive healthcare. She highlighted that the ministry wants to offer seasonal flu vaccines to healthcare workers, underscoring their critical role in safeguarding community health.

Furthermore, Dr. Shamsa Lootah 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 community at large and avoiding potential complications arising from influenza infections.

Dr. Hend Al Awadhi, Head of Health Promotion at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), said that the unified efforts of all health stakeholders in the nation play a critical role in strengthening the cohesive care system for community members, focusing particularly on preventative measures.


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