People over 50 years urged to get vaccinated against seasonal flu
As Qatar begins to experience cooler weather, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has called on citizens and residents aged above 50 to get themselves vaccinated against the seasonal flu at the earliest possible to avoid serious complications from the virus.
Qatar's National Health Strategy 2018-2022 Lead for Healthy Ageing and Medical Director of Rumailah Hospital and Qatar Rehabilitation Institute at HMC, Dr Hanadi Al Hamad highlighted that people above 50 are at a higher risk of serious complications from the flu. This is because their immune systems become weaker by age, making it difficult to fight off viruses and recover after illnesses.
Taking a proactive approach, Qatar's Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) launched the yearly flu vaccination campaign in September this year, earlier than usual, encouraging priority groups to get the flu shot as soon as possible.
The priority groups 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.
Under the campaign, free flu vaccines are administered to citizens and residents of Qatar at all primary health centers, HMC outpatient clinics, and over 45 private and semi-private clinics and hospitals across the country.
"As the weather begins to change and the cooler winter months set in, we see an increase in the number of patients with the common cold, influenza, and other viral infections of the respiratory tract. As people age, they are at a higher risk of complications from influenza and for this reason, it is strongly recommended that those over the age of 50 years get the influenza vaccine," Dr Al Hamad said.
She added that it takes about two weeks to build immunity to the influenza virus after being vaccinated. "So it's important for those aged over 50 years to get the vaccine as early as possible. A flu vaccine is the best and most effective way to protect yourself, your family and your friends from influenza."
Dr Al Hamad said older people need to ensure they are vaccinated against the seasonal flu as they are more likely to develop complications such as pneumonia and the worsening of existing chronic medical conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma, and diabetes.
"The benefits of the flu shot for older people are clear and overwhelming. This group in our community are especially vulnerable to serious complications from the flu. It is more important than ever that they be protected against the flu," she said.
Dr Al Hamad also mentioned that people must get themselves vaccinated against both the seasonal flu and COVID-19 since they are both different viruses.
It is important to understand that the flu vaccine does not protect you from COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you from flu.
"Clinical studies have shown that it is safe and effective to get both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time," she added. "You can safely receive your booster dose and the annual flu vaccine at the same appointment.
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