The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) announced this Tuesday that the influenza vaccination campaign in Qatar has started. This year, local health authorities have urged everyone over six months old to get the flu vaccine and not underestimate the virus’s effects.
Where Can You Get the Shot?
According to the MOPH, citizens and residents can get the flu vaccine for free at governmental health centres like Primary Health Community Corporation (PHCC) clinics and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) outpatient clinics. Additionally, 45 private and semi-private health centres across the country are also offering it at no cost.
Dr Abdellatif Al Khal, the head of the infectious diseases division at HMC, says that this year’s campaign started early so that the population could get a head-start in building immunity against the virus. “Usually, people are exposed to a variety of flu strains every year, which helps to build up immunity to the virus. But with little flu in the past two seasons due in part to COVID-19, that immunity has waned,” he says.
Why Does this Matter?
Dr Al Khal states that getting the flu vaccine is necessary for all age groups as the influenza virus can lead to severe consequences. “Flu is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalisation and sometimes, even death, and should never be underestimated.”
Dr Hamad Al Romaihi, the manager of health protection and communicable diseases at MOPH, agrees and adds that this is especially true for high-risk groups. “These 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,” he says.
When Should You Get It?
Dr Khalid Hamid Elawad, the health protection manager and preventive health directorate at PHCC, says as soon as possible. This is because it can take time for the body to build immunity against the virus. “Maximum protection against the flu takes up to two weeks to develop, so the sooner people get vaccinated, the sooner they will be protected,” he shares. Besides preventing us from catching the flu, Dr Elawad says that the vaccine could also stop us from spreading it.
He also emphasises that the flu vaccine is safe and effective and that people can get it at the same time as or close to their Covid-19 shot. “Clinical studies have shown that this is safe and does not affect the efficacy of either vaccine.”
You Got the Shot Last Year. Do You Need It Again?
Getting the flu vaccine every year keeps your immunity up against the virus. Besides that, it also increases the chance that your body can fight against the correct strain. “The circulating flu viruses change from year to year, which is why it is important to receive the flu vaccine annually,” says Dr Al Khal.
To learn more about the flu vaccine and the national campaign, visit MOPH’s website at moph.gov.qa and follow their social media platforms @MOPHQatar.