UAE health officials are urging the public to get a flu shot and a Covid-19 vaccine again this winter, but to leave a three-week gap between jabs.
The ministry of health has just announced the launch of the national seasonal flu awareness campaign, which runs until December under the theme “Protecting yourself… protects your community.”
UAE flu vaccination details
The vaccine is safe to take alongside the Covid vaccine because both have different compositions, but it’s best to plan a three-week gap between jabs, explained Dr Nada Al Marzouqi, director of the health ministry’s public health and prevention department.
The vaccines are available at all government health centers and private facilities.
Flu shots are free for Emirati nationals and people with underlying health conditions, and Dh50 for everyone else.
Target groups include most of the community, with priority being given to pregnant women, those aged 50 years and older, patients with chronic diseases, children under 5 years and health workers.
Complications from the flu are most likely to be experienced in children under five, people over 65, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases such as heart, kidney and liver disease, as well as those with diabetes and asthma.
The flu season in the UAE runs from around October until March.
A drop in flu cases
Health officials said cases of seasonal flu have decreased considerably over the past two years, though they provided no statistics.
“The reason why cases have been low is because of heightened awareness, as well as the regular use of masks and proper hand hygiene,” said Dr Farida Al Hosani, executive director of the infectious diseases department of the Abu Dhabi public health center.
“We have started this campaign earlier than usual so that the public is prepared before the season starts,” said Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, assistant undersecretary for public health at the health ministry.
With flu season and Covid-19, there are are more challenges for health staff and more community commitment is required, to apply the necessary preventive measures to prevent the spread of the two viruses, said Dr Al Rand.
Over the past 60 years, the seasonal flu vaccine has proven to be safe and effective, and to have reduced length of hospital stay and complications, he added.
“We recommend taking the seasonal influenza vaccine to health workers, especially those in the first line of defense, in emergency departments, outpatient clinics, primary-health-care centers and intensive care units. This is so they reduce the chances of transmitting the disease to patients and family members,” he said.
Differences between Covid-19 and the flu
Because some of the symptoms of flu, Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to determine what the illness is.
Influenza and Covid-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Covid-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.
Compared to flu, Covid-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some
Covid-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious longer.
Asma Ali Zain
Asma Ali Zain is a Dubai based journalist with a field experience of 19 years. She has written extensively on a range of topics and key issues in the region and beyond but her areas of expertise are health, wellbeing and lifestyle writings. She loves tea, cats and sunsets.