With preventative measures against Covid-19 at the front of everyone’s mind, it’s easy to forget there are other common illness around that the body can be sensitive to, such as flu. The UAE government has advised its residents to vaccinate against the threat of seasonal influenza over the next few winter months and whilst a flu vaccine won’t protect against the current pandemic, experts believe it can boost immunity against diseases that weaken the lungs that makes them more susceptible to Covid-19.
The most common symptoms of flu include high fever, body pain, extreme tiredness and dry cough. However some people can also develop serious health problems such as infections in the lungs, ear and sinus or worsening of chronic health problems.
How do flu vaccines work?
A flu vaccine contains immobilised parts of influenza viruses, which help the body to develop immunity around two weeks after vaccination has taken place. After that, the body will produce antibodies that give protection against the viruses that are in the vaccine.
Every year the flu vaccine is updated to ensure protection against the main viruses causing flu each year.
While a single dose should be administered to adults, two doses are recommended for children being vaccinated for the first time. Children between the age of six months and eight years should take their first dose early in on the flu season, while a second dose should be administered four weeks later.
Across the emirates there are numerous clinics offering the flu vaccination and, in some cases, it is provided free of charge to various members of the community.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is offering a complimentary flu jab to Emirati nationals and residents in a high-risk category, at all primary health care centres. For anyone else who would like to receive the shot, it will cost Dh50.
The DHA is offering vaccinations on a walk-in basis at three DHA Medical Fitness Centres: in Jumeirah Lake Towers, Uptown Mirdif and City Walk (Smart Salem Centre) from Sunday to Thursday from 7am to 7pm.
Appointments can also be made by calling 800DHA (800342) to get vaccinated across a number of DHA Primary Healthcare Centres including Al Badaa, Al Lusaily, Al Mankhool, Al Safa, Nad Al Sheba, Zabeel, Mizhar and Twar. They are open Sunday to Thursday from 7am to 9pm.
Al Mamzar Health Centre for women and pregnant women, as well as Al Barsha and Nad Al Hamr 24/7 centres are also offering vaccination services from 7am to 9pm
You can also check out private clinics such as Aster Clinics across Dubai, which are administering the vaccine for Dh49 for adults (no consultation) or Dh79 for kids (including a consultation).
In the capital, the Abu Dhabi Department of Health is focusing on a number of groups that are at higher risk of getting influenza complications and transmitting the disease. These include all healthcare workers, children below five years, pregnant women, Hajj and Umra pilgrims and smokers. People aged 65 years and above also make the list, along with those with high risk conditions who are taking treatments that weaken the immune system like radiation therapy and other treatment for cancer. Also, anyone having a damaged or removed spleen, HIV infection or AIDS, or chronic alcoholism are also a priority. Residents who have long-term health problems such as diabetes, heart or chronic lung disease (including asthma), chronic liver or kidney disease are similarly advised to get vaccinated.
The addition of free vaccines for all residents of Abu Dhabi at healthcare centres under Abu Dhabi Health Services Company – SEHA, Mubadala Healthcare and some private healthcare facilities – means they’ve made it much easier for the community to access such an important medical preventative measure.
NMC clinics across the city are offering the vaccine, as well as Intercare Health Centres and hospitals such as Cleveland Clinic on Maryah Island.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention has recently announced that its social services team will be offering seasonal flu vaccines to seniors in their homes. Until January 2021, residents can call 800700 to book an appointment with one of the 10 primary healthcare centres are taking part in the initiative including:
- Musheiref Health Center- Ajman,
- Al Khazan, Falaj Al Mualla, Al Salamah Health Centers, and Al Raffa Health Center – Umm Al Quwain,
- Julphar, Saif Bin Ali Al Khatiry, and Ras Al Khaimah Healthcare Centres – Ras Al Khaimah,
- Al Khulaibiya Health Center and Al Faseel Family Health Promotion Center -Fujairah.
- Primary Health Care and the Sharjah Social Services Department – Sharjah
Non-seniors can visit a local clinic which will administer the vaccine for AED 50, unless from a high risk group or the Emirati community who will receive it for free.
How else can you prevent flu?
Remember to cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, frequently wash hands with water and soap, or sanitise on a regular basis. Repeated cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects is also encouraged, as well as limiting contact with others as much as possible while sick, to avoid infecting them.
Asha Sherwood owns Abu Dhabi Review, an online and social platform that gives you the scoop on everything happening in the capital.