Wednesday, November 11, 2009

H1N1 vaccination drive takes off in Sharjah

14 government centres designated across Northern region

The Gulf Today, 11 Nov 2009

The UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) launched its swine flu vaccination drive in Sharjah and Northern Emirates on Tuesday.
The inoculation against the virus will be available for public from Wednesday onwards at about 14 designated centres, including preventive health centres in Dubai, Sharjah and other Northern Emirates, according to a senior MoH official.
Speaking on the sidelines of the first workshop for the National Influenza A (H1N1) Immunisation Campaign, Dr Mahmoud Fikri, Executive Director of Health Policies at the MoH and Chairman of the Technical Committee for Combating H1N1, told The Gulf Today that the private sector has not yet been authorised to perform the H1N1 vaccination.
“The vaccination can only be received from the public health centres on which the private sector operators also have to depend on. Administering the H1N1 vaccine is mandatory for all pilgrims before heading towards Saudi Arabia, while it will be optional for other residents,” he said.
“A yellow, passport-sized International Certificate of Vaccination will be provided to all the pilgrims after they get administered with the Pandemrix H1N1 vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline,” he added.
“The preventive medical centres of Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Kalba, Khor Fakkan, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain are among the 14 designated centres for receiving H1N1 vaccination,” explained Dr Emad Abdul Karim, Consultant of Community Medicine and Vaccinology at the MOH.
He said, “The health centre in Dhaid, Mushreif Centre in Ajman, Khatfa Centre in Fujairah, Thaj Mualla Centre in Umm Al Quwain and three centres- Nakheel Centre, RAK Centre and Minae Centre- in Ras Al Khaimah are the rest of the centres where the public will be administered the H1N1 vaccine in the Northern region.”
“In Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia, pilgrims can visit any disease prevention and screening centres for immunization,” he added.
According to Dr Karim, the Haj pilgrims have to receive three vaccines, including the compulsory vaccination for H1N1 and Meningitis (Meningococcal) and optional one for seasonal flu.
He pointed out that the Haj pilgrims must produce certificates proving that they had received the H1N1 vaccination before leaving the UAE. The yellow health card is significant as it helps save the lives of pilgrims who arrive in the Holy site, as KSA has not made it mandatory for pilgrims to be vaccinated against H1N1.
“As part of its standard preventive measures required for the Haj pilgrimage, the MoH had earlier started administering vaccines for seasonal flu and meningitis free-of-cost to the pilgrims,” he noted.
According to Dr Fikri, the UAE has ordered for one million H1N1 vaccines and it is one among the first 20 countries in the world to receive the vaccine.
“The vaccination is needed for three billion people in the world. So far, 50 million doses of the vaccine were distributed worldwide, even though the quantity is not sufficient to meet the needs of even half the world population,” he noted.
The ministry is conducting practical sessions for health professionals in the government sector on the administering of the vaccine to various categories in the country.
The MoH had launched on Monday the national H1N1 awareness campaign for Haj pilgrims in Abu Dhabi.
“About 6,228 pilgrims from the UAE are expected to leave the country for performing Haj this year. Out of the total registered pilgrims, 1,000 are nationals,” said the MoH officials.

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