Dubai: Demand for the flu vaccine has been huge across clinics and hospitals in the UAE, even as the Ministry of Health and Prevention launched its awareness campaign about the flu jab on Monday.
At least four private health care groups in Dubai confirmed to Gulf News that they witnessed an unprecedented rush for the flu vaccine. Also, they said they are awaiting a new quadrivalent (four strain) vaccine, as against the current three-strain vaccine, which is expected by next week and will give better protection against seasonal influenza this year.
The influenza season typically starts from the last week of September and continue until January the next year.
Dr Jyothish George, consultant dermatologist, director of home services and in-charge of vaccine procurement, Prime Health Care Group said: “This year there has been an unprecedented rush to get the flu jab as the influenza season has started. Studies abroad have proved that not only does the flu vaccine prevent flu and reduce the disease burden on an overwhelmed health care system combating COVID-19 globally, it also means more people who get immunity against flu will have fewer visits to hospitals and clinics, thereby reducing their exposure to any kind of illness, including COVID-19. Some studies conducted in the West also show that although the flu vaccine does not work for COVID-19 infections, it does make the infection less virulent.”
He added: “We just finished about 5,000 flu vaccines and our next order is expected by the end of next week.” Speaking to Gulf News at the Ministry of Health and Prevention’s press conference to launch the seasonal flu vaccine on Monday, Dr Nada Al Marzouqi, Director of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health and Prevention, said: “The new quadrivalent flu vaccine will be available by the first week of October.”
As per pharmacy sources, three companies have been mainly supplying flu vaccines in the UAE. So far, the flu vaccine available in the UAE has been trivalent or containing three strains — Influenza A H1N1, Influenza A H3N2 and Influenza B. The new quadrivalent strain contains additional Infuenza B strains — Yamagata and Victoria lineage strains. These are mutations that have been included in addition to the other trivalent strains.
Why quadrivalent strains?
Dr Hind Al Awadhi, Head of Health Promotion and Education Department at Dubai Health Authority (DHA), told Gulf News: “Every year, the flu vaccine is tweaked to include new mutant strains for better protection. This year’s quadrivalent strain has additions of the new mutations that were found to be active in the UAE last flu season.”
Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Health Services (SEHA) is providing the flu vaccine free of charge to all residents at government hospitals as well as schools and colleges. The Ministry of Health and Prevention is providing the flu jab free to Emiratis and those among high risk categories such as health workers, people with co-morbidities, senior citizens, pregnant women and children below five years of age.
In Dubai, the DHA is providing the vaccine at all government hospitals and primary health care centres. It’s free for Emiratis and residents in the high risk groups. In private hospitals, the flu jab costs anywhere between Dh59-125, depending on the facility. Residents have been asked to inquire about the availability of the vaccine and make appointments accordingly.