Flu shot boosts immunity against Covid-19, other lung diseases

Saman Haziq/Dubai
Filed on September 29, 2020 | Last updated on September 29, 2020 at 06.32 am
Coronavirus, Flu shot, boosts, immunity, against, Covid19, lung diseases

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Expats who are not exempted from fees may take the jab for Dh50 at private clinics and hospitals.

A new four-strain flu vaccine will be available to residents at primary health centres by the end of the week, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) said on Monday. All Emiratis, as well as residents at high risk of contracting influenza, will be able to get the jab for free.

As it kicked off its annual National Seasonal Flu Awareness Campaign on Monday, Mohap introduced the new vaccine that has been designed to protect against the four most common strains of the flu virus: two strains of influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2) and another two of influenza B. It will be the first time that Mohap will be administering this flu shot, which gives broader protection.

Among the residents who can get the vaccine for free are those suffering from chronic diseases, children under five years of age, pregnant women, elderly and health workers. Expats who are not exempted from fees may take the jab for Dh50 at private clinics and hospitals, if they have a valid health card.

"We call on all members of the community to take the flu vaccine as soon as possible in order to prevent the spread of the infection among community members, as the body needs up to two weeks to obtain immunity against the disease," said Dr Farida Al Hosani, director of the Department of Communicable Diseases at the Abu Dhabi Centre for Public Health.

Dr Al Hosani reiterated that although this flu shot won't protect against Covid-19, "it can help boost your immunity against respiratory diseases that can weaken your lungs and make you more vulnerable to the virus".

Why take the flu jab amid Covid-19

Mohap's influenza awareness campaign usually starts in October but, this year, the authority decided to roll it well in advance because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be a four-month drive that will last until January next year.

Dr Nada Al Marzouqi, director of preventive medicine department at Mohap, said: "There are a lot of similarities in the symptoms of both seasonal influenza and Covid-19. This is why we are encouraging the community to get vaccinated early to prevent getting the flu or its symptoms, which may cause them mental stress as they fear they would have contracted Covid-19.

Dr Al Hosani added that since the rise in flu cases is usually seen by the end of October and early November, administering the jabs earlier is a must as the body would need two weeks to develop immunity against it,

New flu vaccine explained

Previously, flu vaccines were designed to protect against three different flu viruses, two influenza A strains and one influenza B. However, by adding another B virus to the vaccine, it will give broader protection, Dr Al Marzouqi explained.

"Seasonal influenza causes about three to five million severe illnesses and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, and it also spreads easily among individuals. Such figures increase the importance of the seasonal flu vaccine, which is considered safe and effective," Dr Al Marzouqi said.

Two-week gap must between Covid vaccine and flu shot

Residents who volunteered for the clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine must ensure that "at least two to three weeks" have already passed since their Covid jab before they take the flu shot, health authorities said.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, director of the Department of Communicable Diseases at the Abu Dhabi Centre for Public Health, said they are expecting the Covid-19 vaccine to be widely available by the end of this year or early next year, based on the results of the trials.

In just six weeks, over 31,000 UAE residents volunteered for the third and last phase of the clinical trials for the inactivated Covid-19 vaccine developed by Sinopharm. Aside from the volunteers, a number of health officials and frontliners have received the jab, after the UAE has granted an approval for its emergency use. 

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