Doha: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced Monday that free seasonal flu vaccines will be available at Primary Health Care Corporation clinics, HMC outpatient clinics and designated private and semi-private clinics and hospitals across Qatar.
Manager of Health Protection, Preventive Health Directorate at PHCC Dr. Khalid Hamid Elawad, said it was safe and highly recommended to get the flu vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We encourage people to come early to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones from flu it takes around two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu,” he said.
The ministry stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to get those vaccines, given the similarity in symptoms between the seasonal flu and COVID-19.
The campaign is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). The vaccine is available for free across all PHCCs health centers, HMC (for patients attending clinic appointments) and at more than 40 private clinics and hospitals as well as and semi-governmental health care facilities.
Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 Dr. Abdullatif Al Khal, who is also the, Head of the Infectious Diseases Division at HMC said that with COVID-19 still a threat to human health, its more important than ever that everyone take every possible step to protect themselves and their families against the seasonal flu.
“While the flu and COVID-19 are two different viruses, it is important to ensure you are protected against the seasonal flu this year,” Dr. Al Khal said. “Getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever because of COVID-19. The flu vaccine may not protect you against COVID-19, but it will reduce your risk of developing the flu and flu-related complications, and reduce the possibility of getting infected with both the flu and COVID-19 viruses at the same time.”
“The World Health Organization has urged global widespread flu vaccinations this year, amid concerns the same people who are most vulnerable to severe symptoms from COVID-19, such as those aged over 50 and those with chronic conditions regardless of their age are also at greatest risk from the flu and its complications. We also urge children aged between six months and five years of age and pregnant women to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu. The flu can be particularly severe in pregnancy and the vaccine is highly safe and strongly recommended for pregnant women,” Dr. Al Khal added.
Dr. Al Khal said the annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best and safest way to reduce the chances of catching the flu and potentially spreading it to others. The circulating flu viruses change from year to year which is why it is important to receive the flu vaccine annually.
“As the influenza virus strains change most winters, you need to get immunized each year to be protected against new strains. People who get the vaccine each year are much better protected than those who remain unimmunized and with COVID-19 still in our community, its important to ensure you and your family are protected this year.”
Manager of Health Protection and Communicable Diseases at MoPH Dr. Hamad Al Romaihi said that Qatar had taken steps to ensure anyone who needed the flu vaccine this year would be able to access it both safely and without cost.
“The vaccine is available for free across all PHCC health centers, and at many private and semi-governmental health centers. The Ministry of Public Health has built a strong partnership with private healthcare providers to ensure easy access to the vaccine and increase levels of immunization against the flu in our community. This year we have taken extra steps to ensure we ordered more flu vaccines than ever before to ensure widespread access to the vaccine,” said Dr. Al Romaihi.
“You can safely get a flu vaccine at multiple locations including your primary health care center or at a designated private or semi-private clinic,” Dr. Elawad said adding, “When going to get a flu vaccine, be sure to practice everyday preventive actions this includes wearing a mask, washing your hands and keeping an appropriate distance.”