MoPH all set to kick off the seasonal influenza vaccination campaign in Qatar with free flu vaccines

This year’s seasonal influenza vaccination campaign in Qatar will begin on September 1 at all primary health centres, HMC outpatient clinics, as well as more than 45 private and semi-private hospitals in Qatar, according to the Ministry of Public Health and Hamad Medical Corporation. In anticipation of a flu season that may start earlier than normal this year, the health sector began the campaign early this year.

“We usually launch the seasonal influenza campaign at the end of September each year, but because we are already seeing a significant number of people presenting at medical facilities with the flu, we have decided to take a proactive approach and commence the campaign several weeks earlier,” said Dr Abdullatif Al Khal, Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of the Infectious Diseases Division at HMC. The first phase of the campaign will focus on people who are at most risk to be infected by the flu.

“With COVID-19 still a threat to our health, it’s very important that people take every possible step to protect themselves, their families and friends from the flu. Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses and lead to similar symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses. It is important for people to understand that the flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you from flu. For this reason, we strongly urge people to receive both vaccines. People can receive the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time, or within a short period of time before or after each other. Clinical studies have shown that this is safe, and does not affect the efficacy of either vaccine,” added Dr Al Khal.

“While people of all ages and health conditions can get the flu and become sick, there are certain key population groups who are at increased risk. For this reason, it is important that we prioritize these groups and ensure they are vaccinated against seasonal influenza first. The priority groups are people aged over 50 years; those with chronic conditions regardless of their age; children aged between six months and five years; pregnant women; and healthcare workers and teachers, due to their close interaction with vulnerable patients and children.” said Dr Hamad Al Romaihi, Manager, Health Protection and Communicable Diseases at MOPH.

The seasonal influenza vaccination campaign, according to Dr Al Romaihi, has been shown to be the greatest and safest approach to minimise the risk of getting infected by the flu and transmitting it. Due to the fact that flu viruses vary from one season to another, it’s vital to get vaccinated every year.

Vaccination against influenza will be provided at no charge from Wednesday, September 1, at all 27 primary health care centres, as well as several private and semi-governmental health centres.

“It is important that people do not become complacent about the seasonal flu and believe that it is only COVID-19 that is a threat to their health. I encourage everyone who meets the eligibility criteria to visit one of the flu vaccination centres as soon as possible to get the vaccine. Maximum protection against the flu takes up to two weeks to develop so the sooner people get vaccinated, the sooner they will be protected.” said Dr Khalid Hamid Elawad, Manager, Health Protection, Preventive Health Directorate at PHCC.

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