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Unusual increase in UAE flu cases triggers high demand for vaccine

Asma Ali Zain and Jasmine Al Kuttab/Dubai/Sharjah/Abu Dhabi
Filed on December 4, 2018 | Last updated on December 4, 2018 at 10.08 am
Unusual increase in UAE flu cases triggers high demand for vaccine

(KT file)

Medical centres in Abu Dhabi said that vaccines had been ordered well in advance to meet the huge expected demand.

The flu vaccine is currently in short supply while the demand remains high after doctors report an unusual increase in the number of flu cases this winter season.

A number of people said that the vaccine was unavailable in most medical centres and pharmacies in Dubai, Sharjah and the Northern Emirates. While some centres said it could be available in a couple of weeks, others said they did not know when the supply would come in.

However, medical centres in Abu Dhabi said that vaccines had been ordered well in advance to meet the huge expected demand.

Last week, doctors said that there had been a significant rise in the number of flu cases in the country with noticeably different symptoms. They advised people to take precautions including taking the jab to avoid complications related to flu.

Mohammed Faras said that he had been trying to get the vaccine for himself and his two children but was told it was in short supply. "I checked at least three centres but all said that they were out of stock," he said.

Likewise, Lina Hassan said: "I called a medical centre in Sharjah and I was told that it was likely to be available in a few weeks but they were not sure," she said, adding that she wanted the vaccine for the entire family.

"There have been a number of flu cases this season and to be on the safe side, I want my children to take the vaccine but we are not able to find it," she said.

Khaleej Times called a number of medical centres and pharmacies to confirm the shortage.

The Thumbay Clinic in Sharjah said that they had a limited stock with only 40 pieces left. "People are coming in asking for this vaccine every day and we may not be able to offer it if you delay," said the call centre.

The cost of the vaccine was Dh57 while a consultation with a general practitioner was also necessary and costs Dh60.

Prime Medical Centre in Sharjah said they were out of the vaccine and new stock was expected by second week of December. They said the cost was Dh55 and Dh75 depending on the brand and there was no need for a consultation.

Aster Clinic in Karama (UMC), Dubai, said that the vaccine could be available by tomorrow, adding that the central supply unit has no stock. The price was Dh73 without insurance and no consultation was needed.

Four Seasons Pharmacy in Satwa, Dubai, said that the vaccine was out of stock and it was not sure when the companies would supply it. The cost for individual use depended on the brand with one costing Dh26 and another Dh40.

In October this year, a nine-year-old Indian schoolgirl died showing flu-related complications for over a week while another 17-year-old Dubai student also died of flu-related complications.

No shortage in Abu Dhabi

Dr Mariam Ghufran, specialist in family medicine and head of department at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said that she was unaware of a vaccine shortage and said that two to four patients visit the family medicine department a day for the vaccine.

"We are giving the flu vaccine every day. We haven't had any problems, especially since the start of the flu season and the scare, many people have been coming in and we have ample supply.

"The stock is there and we are constantly in touch with the regulation authority and have many patients daily, both in the paediatric and adult side - we are in stock," she confirmed.

Dr Fadi Baladi, consultant in internal medicine and medical director for the Burjeel Day Surgery in Al Reem Island, said it is usually the hospitals and clinics that order the flu shots in the "last minute" who may experience shortages.

"In Burjeel Day Surgery in Al Reem and other VPS centres, we projected that it's going to be a difficult flu season, so we ordered in advance."

He pointed out that the best time to get the flu shots is in early September. "People start seeing the flu at the end of September and early November, and at that time we were vaccinating tens of patients each day," he added.

He stressed that recently, more patients have been coming in for the flu vaccine as a result of the "news about how people are getting sick".

Samar Munir Al Nasir, pharmacy manager at Universal Hospital in Abu Dhabi, also reassured that the hospital is not experiencing any shortage. "The flu vaccine is available and we have good quantity of the vaccine for adults and children."

"We are receiving around 50 patients each day who are coming in for the vaccine," she added.

Who needs the vaccine?

All persons aged six months and older are recommended for annual vaccination, with rare exceptions. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk for serious complications from influenza.

People who can get the flu shot:

Different flu shots are approved for people of different ages. Everyone should get a vaccine that is appropriate for their age.

Some vaccines are only approved for adults. For example, the recombinant influenza vaccine is for people aged 18 years and older, and the adjuvanted and high-dose inactivated vaccines are for people aged 65 years and older. Flu shots are recommended for pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions.

People who should not get the flu shot:

>Children younger than six months of age are too young to get a flu shot.

>People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine

Source: US Centres for Disease Control and Protection

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