UAE flu vaccine for Umrah pilgrims: Cost, process explained as demand spikes at hospitals

More than 50 people are coming in to get the shot every day, doctors say


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Fri 29 Mar 2024, 3:33 PM

Last updated: Fri 29 Mar 2024, 11:39 PM

Some hospitals in the country are seeing a spike in demand for flu shots, following the recent advisory on the mandatory vaccination for Umrah pilgrims.

The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) recently confirmed that travellers going to Saudi Arabia for Umrah or Haj would have to present influenza vaccination cards. Etihad Airways said the certificate would be mandatory for all their passengers who are flying to Jeddah. Other airlines are yet to issue guidelines.

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At Thumbay University Hospital, the travellers' clinic is busier than usual, said Dr Fiaz Ahamed, infection control physician.

"(The clinic is packed with) Umrah pilgrims who are getting immunisations in accordance with Mohap's directive. More than 50 people are visiting us every day for the flu vaccine," said Dr Ahamed.

The jab, he said, would effectively lower travellers' risk of contracting flu upon their return.

Aster Hospital in Dubai's Mankhool area is seeing a similar trend.

“Our facility and clinics have seen a surge of patients coming in to get the flu shot. As many as 50 flu vaccines were administered in the month of March at our hospital,” said Dr Jyoti Upadhyay, an internal medicine specialist at Aster.

Umrah is known as a minor pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah that can be performed at any time of the year. With the Umrah season coinciding with the influenza season, health authorities have underscored the importance of vaccination to prevent the spread of flu.

Easy process

In response to the increased demand, UAE hospitals have ramped up its vaccination efforts, ensuring adequate supply and streamlining the process to accommodate the surge in patients.

“We have implemented special arrangements to accommodate the anticipated surge in demand over the next few days. This includes prioritising bookings for appointments and establishing a fast-track route for fasting pilgrims,” said Dr Ahamed.

“Additionally, the hospital promptly issues vaccination certificates for documentation, ensuring a seamless and efficient experience for all individuals seeking influenza vaccination before undertaking Umrah," he added.

When should you take the vaccine?

Dubai doctors recommend that the pilgrims take either the Influvac or Influenza Tetra vaccine at least 10 days before their travel date.

The 10-day time frame allows for the development of optimal immunity, Dr Ahamed said.

“Given the proximity and crowded conditions encountered during Umrah, the risk of acquiring influenza is heightened, posing threat to vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with underlying conditions like diabetes and asthma,” he added.

How much does it cost?

At Aster Hospital, the Influvac vaccine is being offered at Dh99.

"Our pharmacy is gearing up to stock more doses of the Influvac vaccine, to make sure everyone can get it easily," Dr Upadhyay said.

Mohap's decision to make influenza vaccination mandatory for Umrah pilgrims comes as part of ongoing efforts to enhance public health measures and mitigate the spread of infectious diseases.


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