Health authorities have encouraged vulnerable groups to take the latest flu vaccine in what could be a busy winter for hospitals.
Millions of people are expected to arrive in the UAE this winter as tourism gets back on track and gets under way, increasing the likelihood of a new flu virus circulating.
UAE officials have stressed that there is no danger in taking both the Covid-19 and flu vaccine, as long as there is sufficient time between doses for the body to recuperate.
“People should not think twice as this flu vaccine is , so it is important they take it,” said Dr Hind Al Awadhi, head of health promotion and education at Dubai Health Authority.
“There is no reason not to [take it], we only ask people to leave a gap of two weeks between doses to give their body enough time to develop some immunity,” she said.
The flu virus presents similar symptoms to Covid-19 in humans and causes respiratory problems that can be fatal in severe cases, particularly among vulnerable groups.
“Since last year and the start of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation emphasised the importance of enhancing a flu vaccine campaign and to reach out to the community, particularly those at greater risk,” said Dr Farida Al Hosani, health spokeswoman for the federal government.
“These are frontline health workers, children, pregnant women and those with chronic diseases. It will help relieve pressure on the health sector to complete its health responses and services during the continuing pandemic.
Mask rules ‘should keep cases low’ this winter
“Wearing masks were one reason why the numbers of last year but also because we had an effective vaccination campaign.
“We want that to continue this year and we encourage people to follow all the precautionary measures in place to limit the spread of Covid-19.”
Pregnant women, children under five, the elderly and those with existing chronic illnesses like diabetes or hypertension are considered vulnerable.
These people will be offered the vaccine free, as will all citizens and healthcare workers.
Any member of the public can get the flu vaccine for a Dh50 ($13.60) charge.
There are three variants of seasonal influenza, types A, B and C.
A quadrivalent vaccine has been developed and is being administered, derived from infections recorded in previous months in the southern hemisphere.
A is developed each year, relating to the most recent strain of the influenza virus recorded in global communities.
The flu vaccine will be available in the UAE at all primary health centres, private clinics and hospitals but will not be available at dedicated Covid-19 treatment centres.
“We know between 250,000 and 500,000 people worldwide suffer complications and die from flu each year so we should not take it lightly,” said Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, assistant undersecretary for public health.
“It is important for people to take the vaccine, particularly those with other illnesses that could cause complications.
“Any visitor to the UAE can also take the vaccine at a private health centre for a small charge.”
Health officials accepted the public may may have “vaccine fatigue” but should consider how best to protect themselves, especially if they fall into a vulnerable group.
The only people who should not consider taking the vaccine are those who have suffered a severe reaction to the vaccine previously, officials said.
If someone has been ill recently or shown symptoms of other illnesses, they are advised to delay taking the flu vaccine until they have recovered.
As symptoms of Covid-19 and flu are similar, if someone is having respiratory symptoms they should take a PCR test so coronavirus can be ruled out or so they can isolate and recuperate.