Taking a flu shot is ‘essential’, UAE doctors remind residents ahead of winter season

People have been so worried about the pandemic that they have forgotten to get flu shots, doctors in the United Arab Emirates have told Al Arabiya English, urging residents to get vaccinated ahead of the winter season.

“Getting the flu shot is essential to minimize the incidence of influenza infection, which can be as severe as any acute viral illness,” said medical director and internal medicine consultant Dr. Fadi Baladi from the Burjeel Day Surgery Center in Abu Dhabi.

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“People were worried about COVID-19 until recently, then they forgot that the flu is easily preventable with the flu shot that needs to be taken before the winter season.”

The incidence of influenza has decreased since the pandemic due to the use of preventive measures like face masks and regular disinfection, Baladi told Al Arabiya English.

Now that the UAE has seen a significant reduction in the number of daily COVID-19 infections, residents are urged to take precautions to avoid the flu.

“As [flu] cases are reported, we strongly recommend people get the flu shot,” Baladi said.

Echoing his sentiment, pediatric specialist Dr Mohamed Helal of Salma Rehabilitation Hospital Abu Dhabi said: “It is advisable to take the flu vaccine before the winter season in the UAE, which usually begins around September or October, as this is the best way to prevent the flu and avoid its serious complications.

Those most at risk for flu-related complications are the elderly, pregnant women, people with diabetes, lung disease, kidney disease, immunodeficiency disorders, and those who have “had transplants and take anti-rejection medication,” Baladi explained.

In the United Arab Emirates, residents aged six months or older can get the flu shot.

The flu vaccine provides protection against the common cold by training the immune system to generate defensive antibodies.

Although COVID-19 and influenza are contagious respiratory diseases, taking the coronavirus vaccine does not provide protection against influenza, doctors said.

“Influenza strains are totally different from COVID-19 strains, so the COVID-19 vaccine will not provide complete immunity against seasonal flu,” Helal said.

“Influenza belongs to the Orthomyxoviridae family of viruses, while COVID-19 belongs to the coronavirus family. Although both are contagious respiratory illnesses, they are caused by different viruses.

They both have common symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches, nausea, and headache. Additionally, COVID-19 and influenza can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and in severe cases, heart attacks, heart inflammation, brain inflammation, or stroke.

“The COVID-19 vaccine does not provide immunity against influenza. We recommend a two-week gap between flu shots and the COVID-19 vaccine. Regardless of taking the COVID-19 vaccine, people should consider getting the flu shot as soon as possible because the flu season has already started,” Baladi said.

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