As the influenza (flu) season approaches, Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC), Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) have joined forces to launch a national campaign to ensure that both the community and healthcare workers are vaccinated.
To ensure as many people as possible are vaccinated this year, members of the public will be able to obtain the influenza vaccine for free at PHCC Health Centers across the country as well as selected private clinics. Thousands of staff across Qatar’s health system have already received this year’s flu vaccine.
For the first time, all three entities have established a website – www.stoptheflu.qa – where members of the community can find information about the vaccine – including myths and facts – as well as where they can get the vaccine for free in Qatar.
The annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best and safest way to reduce the chances catching the flu and potentially spreading it to your patients and families. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but across the world millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year.
“Flu is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes, even death. Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk for the flu and its complications. This includes the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions,” said Dr Abdullatif Al Khal, HMC’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Head of Infectious Diseases. “It is also important for healthcare workers to vaccinate themselves against the flu to protect their patients. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others – this is why it is important to take all measures to protect yourself and your family.”
Dr. Khalid Hamid Elawad, Subject Matter Expert - Public Health, Clinical Affairs at PHCC said: “Seasonal influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses which circulate in all parts of the world. Influenza is usually an uncomplicated illness, which is characterized by sudden onset of constitutional and respiratory symptoms such as fever, myalgia, cough, sore throat, rhinitis and headache. Influenza typically resolves in 3-7 days in the majority of individuals. In a proportion of patients – pregnant women, individuals with pre-existing chronic illnesses (e.g. diabetes, asthma, chronic lung diseases) the very young and elderly – influenza may be associated with more severe illness or complications, these complications include viral pneumonia, secondary bacterial or viral infections (including pneumonia, sinusitis and otitis media), and exacerbation of underlying illnesses (e.g. pulmonary and cardiac illness).”
Dr. Elawad also added that flu vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, and a growing body of evidence supports the fact that vaccination also reduces the risk of serious flu outcomes that can result in hospitalization and even death. “It is also essential to practice good hygiene by properly and frequently washing hands and protecting coughs and sneezes (coughing or sneezing into a tissue or an elbow) to help prevent the spread of seasonal influenza. People who have flu-like symptoms should stay at home to avoid infecting others. At PHCC we encourage all high risk to get influenza vaccine during the winter season in any of our health centers as a preventative measure.”
Dr. Soha Albayat Head of the Vaccination Section at MOPH, said: “Vaccination is an important element of the Public Health Strategy, especially in communicable disease control and healthy aging components. Immunization and improved treatment have reduced mortality and morbidity rates in Qatar and across the world in recent years. However, communicable diseases remain a significant challenge for public health services. Influenza-like illnesses are among the most commonly reported communicable diseases in Qatar. It is critical that we focus national attention on the importance of influenza vaccination to protect as many people as possible every season.”
“The theme of the influenza vaccine campaign this year is FIGHT FLU. The vaccination campaign started for healthcare workers from 10th October and for the public from 15th October 2018 and will last until end of the flu season. To make the influenza vaccine easily accessible to everyone this year, the vaccine is available across all PHCC’s primary health centers and for the first time will have 45 private and semi-governmental health facilities including Qatar Petroleum and Sidra Medicine participating in the campaign and providing the vaccine free of charge. Through this, the Ministry of Public Health is building a strong partnership with private healthcare providers to increase levels of immunization against the flu in our community,” stated Dr. Albayat.
Dr. Albayat also added that the influenza vaccination during pregnancy is safe. “Studies show that, in addition to helping to protect pregnant women, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect babies from flu infection for their first several months of life, before they are old enough to be vaccinated. Therefore, I am encouraging all pregnant women to protect herself and her child.
For more information about influenza and where to get to the vaccine for free in Qatar, go to www.stoptheflu.qa