The press conference by the Ministry of Health and Prevention
The press conference by the Ministry of Health and Prevention Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Those who may have taken the COVID-19 trial vaccine in the UAE must give a gap of two-three weeks before getting the seasonal influenza vaccine, said a top government official at the launch of the annual nation-wide seasonal flu awareness campaign 2020 by the Ministry of Health and Prevention on Monday. The annual campaign, which is usualy launched in October, was announced on September 28 by the Ministry of Health and Prevention in conjuction with the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, the Abu Dhabi Health Services company (Seha) and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). The campaign is entitled “Immunise yourself... Protect your community” and will run until January 2021.

Pointing out that influenza vaccine only provides immunity against flu and not COVID-19, Dr Farida Al Hosani from the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre said: “While the flu vaccine will not provide immunity against COVID-19, it will help those at high risk from COVID-19 to at least be free of flu symptoms that can compromise their health.” She added that since both this vaccine and the COVID-19 trial vaccine of the influenza vaccine were created from inactivated viruses, it was advisable for those taking both to keep a gap of at least two-three weeks. “This will give the body sufficient time to develop antibodies against both.”

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The campaign, which will include community education, awareness and training, was launched in the presence of Hussein Abdul Rahman Al-Rand, Undersecretary of the Ministry’s Health Assistant Sector, Health Centres and Clinics, Dr Anwar Sallam, Chief Medical Officer, SEHA, Dr Nada Al Marzouqi, Director of Preventive Medicine Department, Dr. Farida Al Hosani, Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases at the Abu Dhabi Centre for Public Health. Dr Hend Al Awadhi, Head of Health Promotion and Education Section, DHA.

This year, getting vaccinated against influenza is being considered important, said the health officials, as the jab will keep the individuals free of any viral flu infections that could weaken their immune system and also free them from unnecessary hospital exposure in COVID-19 times. Dr Al Rand said flu also caused high absenteeism from work and impacted productivity.

A must for those at high risk

Following the directives of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the influenza vaccine must be administered to the high risk group in society which included senior citizens, those with other health co-morbidities, pregnant women, children under the age of five and all health care workers. But in the current pandemic situation, officials said it was recommended everyone should get vaccinated.

Dr Sallam of SEHA said that last year, the flu vaccine was administered by SEHA to about 180,000 citizens and residents of Abu Dhabi and 22,394 SEHA employees.

Dr Al Marzoqui added that the health ministry has stepped up the flu campaign this year “This year’s campaign is taking place under exceptional circumstances, as it coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the ministry makes use of this campaign to educate the community members on ways to know the difference between seasonal influenza and coronavirus symptoms, in addition to taking all the necessary measures curb the spread of seasonal flu, so as to reduce burden on health care centers nationwide and to keep their focus on confronting Covid-19.”