Doha, Qatar: The Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) announced that the flu vaccine is available free of charge in its 31 health centers, noting that this campaign focuses on five priority groups who are more vulnerable to severe influenza infection, to ensure they receive the flu shot first. 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.
Dr Al Awad noted that people with chronic conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, those in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, or immunocompromised people, should get the flu shot, given that they are at higher risk from serious influenza complications that may lead to hospital admission or death.
He added that giving children aged between six months and five years the flu shot significantly reduces the risk of flu complications for children.
Dr Al Awad also said that the flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women, as they are also among those most at risk of developing severe flu complications. Flu vaccine offers protection for pregnant women against flu infection during pregnancy, as well as for their newborn babies in their first months. The flu vaccine can be given during any stage of pregnancy, but the sooner the better, he added.
Reviews of past studies have found that the flu vaccine is about 50% effective for healthy adults who are between 18 and 64 years old. It also can lower the risk of having serious illness from the flu and needing to stay in the hospital.
Dr Al Awad noted that some cases are advised not to take the flu shot, such as those who have shown symptoms of severe allergies to a previous flu shot or to any of its ingredients. As for those who have severe egg allergies, they are advised to consult a doctor before getting the vaccine. He also advised people with fever or with a body temperature higher than 38 degrees Celsius to postpone their flu shot.
Additionally, Dr Al Awad explained that because flu viruses change so quickly, last year’s vaccine may not protect people from this year’s viruses. New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly changing flu viruses. When people get vaccinated, their immune system makes antibodies to protect them from the viruses included in the vaccine. But antibody levels may decline over time — another reason to get a flu shot every year.