The flu virus can cause severe illness for some people, especially those at increased risk for developing influenza-related complications, Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, head of the Infectious Diseases Division at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), cautioned on Thursday.
In a series of tweets, aimed at dispelling doubts, the Ministry of Public Health's top official said the flu vaccine was safe.
"Reported side effects can include slight pain at the injection site and a low-grade fever, but these side effects are only reported in a small percentage of people who get the vaccine," he said.
Qatar launched the annual seasonal flu vaccination campaign on Tuesday for citizens and residents. The vaccine is given free.
"It is important to highlight that the flu virus that will be spreading this winter is different from the flu virus that circulated last winter," he said.
“The seasonal influenza vaccine is currently available in Qatar and is the same vaccine we import every year from prestigious companies such as Abbott and Sanofi," Dr al-Khal said.
"We have been providing the influenza vaccine for many years and we have had a positive experience with these companies. Moreover, this vaccine is used by many countries around the world, including the US and EU countries.
"Since the beginning of October, we have vaccinated more than 20,000 people, most of them are healthcare workers at Hamad Medical Corporation and the Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC).
"We have also begun offering the vaccine to the public, and especially to those aged 50 years or above, children from six months to five years of age, people with chronic diseases, and pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy," Dr al-Khal added.
Launching vaccination campaign earlier this week, the official had explained that Qatar has a stock of about 500,000 doses this year against 200,000 last year.
"This year it is all the more important to take the flu shot due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation,” Dr al-Khal, who is also chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19, said.
“While flu and Covid-19 are two different viruses, it is important to ensure you are protected against the seasonal flu this year. Getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever because of Covid-19. The flu vaccine may not protect you against Covid-19, but it will reduce your risk of developing the flu and flu-related complications, and reduce the possibility of getting infected with both the flu and Covid-19 viruses at the same time. It also helps not to get confused with Covid-19 symptoms,” Dr al-Khal explained.
The campaign, a joint initiative of MoPH, PHCC and HMC, runs until February.
"But it is important that people get the flu shot at the earliest possible as the flu situation can be more serious in the months of December and January. Therefore it is advisable to take the flu shot at the earliest,” he added.