Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Under the theme “Immunize yourself …. Protect your community”, the Ministry of Health and Prevention, MoHAP, has launched its annual National Seasonal Flu Awareness Campaign 2020, which lasts until the end of January 2021.
The campaign is being organized in cooperation with Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC), Abu Dhabi Health Services "SEHA" and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and it aims to highlight the importance of getting vaccinated against seasonal flu and acquaint health workers with the best international practices to prevent the risks of the influenza virus.
This came during a press conference held on Monday at the InterContinental Dubai - Festival City, in the presence of HE Dr. Hussein Abdul Rahman Al-Rand, Undersecretary of the Ministry’s Health Assistant Sector, Health Centers, and Clinics, Dr. Anwar Sallam, Chief Medical Officer, SEHA,Dr. Nada Al Marzouqi, Director of Preventive Medicine Dept, Dr. Farida Al Hosani, Director of the Department of Communicable Diseases at the Abu Dhabi Centre for Public Health. and Dr. Hend Al Awadhi, Head of Health Promotion and Education Section, DHA.
The campaign, which coincides with Covid-19 pandemic, aims to raise the awareness of health workers about the latest methods of preventing the influenza virus through tailor-made lectures and training courses, as well as to enhance community members’ awareness about the nature of this disease, its cusses and symptoms, and ways of prevention, provide sufficient amounts of vaccines for target groups, and increase vaccination coverage rates while underlining the readiness of health centers to receive those wishing to take the vaccine amid stringent precautionary and preventive measures.
Comprehensive health coverage
In his opening remarks, Dr. Hussein Abdel Rahman Al-Rand said: “The National Seasonal Flu Awareness Campaign is one of the most important events on the Health Ministry’s agenda. This stems from our strategy aimed at developing the health system, providing comprehensive health coverage to prevent infectious diseases, especially influenza, taking the necessary preventive measures to curb its spread and reduce its health and economic burdens, and raising awareness about the causes of the disease and its symptoms, and ways of prevention as an essential pillar in reducing its prevalence.”
Al-Rand added: “MoHAP was keen to launch early this annual campaign, which is packed with a variety of awareness-raising programs, to reach out to the largest segment of target groups and to ensure that they are getting vaccinated against this virus, so as to reduce the undesirable complications of one of the most major challenges to health systems around the world.”
Concluding his remarks, Al-Rand called on the community members to get vaccinated and follow healthy and preventive habits to curb the prevalence of the seasonal flu, underlining that the participation of SEHA and DHA clearly reflects the integration of the UAE’s health system to achieve health security and prevent infectious diseases.
Achieving 'A Healthier Abu Dhabi’ vision
For his part, Dr. Anwar Sallam said: “The UAE has recognized very early the importance of providing vaccines to community members and urging them to immunize themselves from infectious diseases. Such efforts were evident in combating and eliminating many diseases inside and outside the country.”
He added: “SEHA, in cooperation with MoHAP and DHA, has been providing vaccines in its hospitals and health centers, in accordance with the highest levels of safety and preventive measures. The company also strives to get its workers vaccinated in their work locations to prevent seasonal influenza.”
“We have also provided vaccines free of charge to those dealing with our medical facilities and organized off-site campaigns to reach out to the largest possible number of individuals. This is in addition to launching free vaccination platforms in a number of shopping centers in cooperation with the competent authorities and the private sector,” Sallam elaborated.
“In 2019/2020, SEHA provided the influenza vaccine to about 180,000 citizens and residents of Abu Dhabi, in addition to vaccinating 22,394 employees of the company itself, at a rate of 97% of the employees. This comes as part of our commitment to achieving the 'A Healthier Abu Dhabi’ vision and making prevention a lifestyle among community members,” he concluded.
Awareness and education
For her part, Dr. Farida Al Hosani stressed the importance of the annual campaign, saying it was given utmost attention by the Department of Communicable Diseases, which spared no effort to cooperate with various health authorities in this respect.
“The department has initiated several measures to curb the spread of seasonal flu among community members. We have made the vaccine available before the flu breaks out and launched many awareness and educational campaigns to enhance people’s knowledge about influenza,” Al Hosani added.
“Seasonal flu is a rapidly transmissible disease. A person becomes ill as a result of inhaling the spray flying in the air when an infected patient coughs, sneezes or speaks. Other methods of transmission include touching surfaces or materials contaminated with the influenza virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes,” she further said.
While highlighting the importance of taking the vaccine, Al Hosani said: "We call on all members of the community to take the vaccine as soon as possible in order to prevent the spread of the infection among community members as the body needs up to two weeks to obtain immunity against the disease. It is free of charge and given to people aged six months and above. According to official statistics in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the number of seasonal flu cases reaches the highest level in November, and lasts until approximately April”.
Speaking on the methods of prevention, Al Hosani said: “There are many ways that can be followed to prevent the spread of seasonal influenza infection. These include covering the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, washing and sanitizing hands frequently, and cleaning and sterilizing surfaces and tools that may be contaminated with germs,”.
Taking necessary measures
Dr. Nada Al Marzouqisaid: “This year’s campaign is taking place under exceptional circumstances, as it coincides with Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, the ministry makes use of this campaign to educate the community members on ways to know the difference between seasonal influenza and coronavirus symptoms, in addition to taking all the necessary measures curb the spread of seasonal flu, so as to reduce burden on health care centers nationwide and to keep their focus on confronting Covid-19.”
She mentioned that Seasonal influenza causes about 3-5 million severe illnesses and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, noting that this disease is a viral infection that spreads easily among the individuals. Such figures increase the importance of the seasonal flu vaccine which is considered a safe and effective vaccine.
“Over the course of 60 years, health systems worldwide have been using influenza vaccine with high success rates in reducing the disease complications and hospitalization,” Al-Jassmi added.
Dr. Hend Al Awadhi said: “At the DHA, we pay great attention to achieving health security for community members by strengthening efforts to prevent various diseases, including seasonal influenza.”
Lauding the joint efforts of the various health institutions to achieve the national goals of this campaign and to build on the success of the campaign in the previous years, Al Awadhi emphasized the safety of the influenza vaccine and its effective role in curbing the complications of this disease, especially among the most vulnerable groups, including children under 5 years of age, adults over the age of 65 years, pregnant women, and people with chronic diseases such as asthma, heart disease, kidney and liver diseases, diabetes, and health workers.