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Hospitals in UAE see 'unprecedented' spike in demand for flu jabs

Saman Haziq/Dubai
Filed on September 30, 2020 | Last updated on October 1, 2020 at 12.14 am
coronavirus, covid19, Flu, flu season, UAE, hospitals, flu shots, flu jab,

(Alamy Image)

Flu season usually starts in early October and continues until January.

Hospitals and clinics across the country are seeing a surge in demand for the seasonal influenza vaccine, with the flu season fast approaching and the Covid-19 virus still around. A number of them have already run out of stocks as they await the new vaccine supply, Khaleej Times has learnt.

Flu season usually starts in early October and continues until January. The Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) on Monday kicked off its annual National Seasonal Flu Awareness Campaign, stressing the need to get vaccinated especially amid Covid-19.

Mohap also introduced a new four-strain flu vaccine, which is expected to be available within a week.

Private hospitals and clinics said that while they are awaiting the new flu shot, they have been administering the three-strain vaccine they have on hand. However, with the "unprecedented rush" they have experienced in the last month, their stocks of the old, three-strain vaccine are depleting fast.

Dr Shipra Sen, internal medicine specialist at Zulekha Hospital Dubai, said most of their patients who got the flu vaccine were 12 years old and older.

"We are yet to receive the new four-strain vaccine. In the meantime, we were giving only the trivalent vaccine jabs - which we have now exhausted. We have been reassured that the more effective quadrivalent influenza vaccine will be available in a week's time," Dr Sen said.

The vaccine, she explained, provides protection against the common strains of the flu virus for a year. "One has to remember that it is a live vaccine; hence, the body takes time to produce antibodies. The vaccine starts working only after 15 to 20 days; therefore it is better to take before the flu season begins in full swing," Dr Sen added.

Residents now more aware

Dr Bobomurod Keldiyorov, family medicine specialist at Canadian Specialist Hospital, said more people now understand the importance of getting a flu jab, thanks to the authorities' awareness campaigns.

"We are seeing people of all age groups inquiring about the flu shots, thanks to the widespread awareness created by the government...especially as we battle the Covid-19 pandemic."

The doctor said they have seen a 20 per cent surge in demand for the vaccine this year, compared with the same period last year.

"It is important that more and more people take the flu shot, as a combination of both the common flu virus and Covid-19 - or one followed by the other - may mean bad news for a patient's health and his overall ability to recover. Both seasonal influenza and Covid-19 can cause respiratory problems and even pneumonia, and getting both at the same time can be a deadly combination," Dr Keldiyorov said.

Cautious parents

Dr Kiran Kumar Rai, paediatrician at Burjeel Day Surgery Centre, Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi, agreed that the demand has been "unusually high" this year as parents have become more cautious of viral infections.

"There has been awareness about the flu vaccine over the last two years but, because of the current scenario and worry regarding viral infections, parents are more keen on getting their kids vaccinated. We are seeing more demand from parents seeking to vaccinate children from six months to 14 years," Dr Rai said.

saman@khaleejtimes.com 


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