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Get vaccine shots for free to ward off the flu

Shots available free at public clinics, and at varying rates with private health facilities

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: With the advent of winter, it is once again time to protect oneself against flu-related complications, and a senior health official has confirmed that flue vaccine injections are available free of charge at public clinics in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The shots are also available in private health facilities at varying rates.

More than 150,000 people in the emirate of Abu Dhabi received the flu vaccine last year, yet the aim is to ensure that all people at risk of complications get the vaccination every year, said Dr Farida Al Hosani, director of communicable diseases at the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH). The DoH regulates Abu Dhabi emirate’s health sector.

“Vaccines are the most effective tool for reducing the burden of infectious diseases like seasonal influenza, and we call upon residents to get the flu vaccine and stop the spread of this disease,” Dr Al Hosani said.

“Every October, the flu vaccine is updated to target the most prevalent strains of the influenza virus, and this year’s jab offers protection against H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B viruses. The shot is especially safe, and can be administered to anyone aged over six months,” she told Gulf News.

A typical bout of influenza lasts for a week, but can persist longer in children, as well as those with low levels of immunity. It brings about common symptoms like sniffles, chills, cough, cold, fatigue and fever.

In the UAE, the flu season extends from late September to March of the subsequent year, with the number of influenza cases peaking in December and January. This is why the updated vaccine is made available in the country every October.

Dr Al Hosani said that pregnant women, children below five years of age, the elderly beyond 60 years of age, health-care workers and those with chronic diseases are most at risk of developing complications from the flu. These can include high fevers and pneumonia that require hospitalisation to be adequately treated, especially as the flu can worsen chronic medical conditions like diabetes and asthma.

“For instance, pregnant women suffer from severe H1N1 infections and face difficulty in breathing, but this can be easily prevented with a timely flu shot,” she said.

“In 2009, the H1N1 virus killed thousands of people and caused a global pandemic, leading to international panic about the severity of the flu. Since then, we have strengthened our measures to protect against such communicable diseases, and we emphasise the need for vaccinations among high-risk groups,” Dr Al Hosani added. The 2009 H1N1 virus is estimated to have killed up to 575,000 people across the world.

While the uptake of the flu vaccine is growing in Abu Dhabi, some residents are concerned about its side effects. Dr Al Hosani, however, assured that these are mild and temporary, and include soreness and redness at the injection site that is sometimes accompanied by fever.

The symptoms disappear within a day or two, and are much easier to fight than a full-blown influenza attack, the official added.

Getting the flu shot

Call 80050 to find out which public clinics in Abu Dhabi offer the flu vaccines free of charge.