Take vaccines one month before travel: Experts
The services are free for Emiratis and available at an affordable price for expats.
Health officials are encouraging families who are planning to travel during the summer holidays to ensure that they take necessary pre-travel vaccinations at least one month prior to their journey to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Officials from traveller's clinics in the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) as well as the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) say that the services are free for Emiratis and available at an affordable price for expats.
"Our clinics and centres are giving these vaccines at half the price compared to the private and other government sectors," said Dr Fatma Al Attar, family medicine consultant and head of Travellers Clinic team at the ministry.
She said that the prices of vaccines were lowered on a special order and after a study presented to the Minister of Health and Prevention.
Dr Fatma said vaccines are given free to children under five. "We wanted to make it affordable and ask people to take care of their health," she said.
"It is important to educate travellers on the health risks that they may be exposed to when visiting other countries. They should visit screening centres before leaving the country so that they may take necessary vaccinations as a precautionary measure," she added.
She said that many travellers do not realise the importance of the medical aspect of travelling, which is essential and important when choosing their destinations. "It is important to take vaccines such as pneumococcal and for malaria."
The DHA has two traveller's clinics inside the Nad Al Hammar and Al Barsha primary healthcare centres which are provide pre-travel medical services such as vaccinations, risk assessment and travel advice.
"Since vaccination requirements vary by country and often require second doses, it's important to visit a traveller's clinic at least one month prior to travel," said Dr Fathiya Sarkal, deputy director of DHA traveller's clinics.
"Often travellers need more than one vaccine. We still see families who come to us a week or a few days prior to the travel," she said.
"We inform them that we cannot be sure of the effectiveness of the vaccine unless it is administered at least a month to minimum two weeks prior to the date of travel and we recommend that they postpone their travel dates. Therefore, to avoid all such hassles our advice is to understand the importance of pre-travel vaccines and medical advice and incorporate this when they plan to travel," said Dr Fathiya.
Travel vaccines depend on the place of travel. For example, yellow fever presents the greatest health risk for visitors to South America and Central Africa.
"When patients visit us, we discuss the places they intend to travel, length of stay, their health, current prescriptions and vaccine history. After a detailed consultation, we recommend vaccines and educate them about other travel precautions based on their destination," she said.
"There are mandatory vaccines such as yellow fever vaccine for African and South American countries and meningococcal vaccine for pilgrims."
Travellers should use common sense in knowing which foods to eat and avoid, especially in places where there is a prevalence of food and water borne diseases. She also advised purchasing travel insurance to help cover the costs of health emergencies.
For location of ministry clinics, travellers can call 80011111. To contact DHA branches, call 04-5023701 in Nad Al Hammar and 04-5023301 in Al Barsha.
Prevent illness and injury
>Not all diseases can be prevented with vaccines or pills. There are simple but important precautions you should take to avoid getting sick abroad:
>Wear EPA-registered insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites, which can spread serious diseases.
>Reduce your exposure to germs by washing your hands often with soap and clean water (if available) or use hand sanitizer (made with at least 60% alcohol).
>Be careful about what you eat and drink. Contaminated food or drinks can cause travellers diarrhoea and other diseases.
>Avoid stray, wild, or frightened animals. In addition to the risk of rabies, all animal bites carry a risk of bacterial infection.
>Pack a travel health kit with your health items and supplies, including your prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
No consultation fee
At the MoHAP Travellers Clinic, a non-local resident who holds a valid health card issued by the ministry shall be exempted from the value of the consultation fee for the purpose of vaccination (Dh150).
The fee for issuing the international vaccination card (Dh20) shall be paid unless the person has received the card in advance, and the fee of doctor's consultation for purpose of vaccination (Dh150) should be paid in case the non-citizen takes the vaccination from any private health facility, even if he has a health card.
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