People over the age of 50 years are urged to get the annual seasonal flu vaccination as early as possible this year to avoid serious complications from the virus.
Dr Hanadi al-Hamad, Qatar’s National Health Strategy 2018-2022 lead for Healthy Ageing and medical director of Rumailah Hospital and Qatar Rehabilitation Institute at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), said people over the age of 50 years are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu because human immune defenses become weaker with age - lowering one’s ability to fight off viruses and bounce back after illness.
“As the weather begins to change and the cooler winter months move 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. This year, with Covid-19 still a threat to our health, it’s more important than ever that we take every possible step to protect ourselves from the seasonal flu,” said Dr al-Hamad.
“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 – and those with whom you encounter – from influenza,” added Dr al-Hamad.
To ensure as many people as possible are vaccinated this year, the Ministry of Public Health, HMC and the Primary Health Care Corporation have again joined forces to ensure members of the public can get the influenza vaccine for free at all health centers across the country, as well as at more than 40 private clinics.
Dr al-Hamad also stressed the importance of older people ensuring they are protected this flu season, noting that they may be more susceptible to 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,” explained Dr al-Hamad.
Dr al- Hamad stressed that getting the flu shot this year is especially crucial for older people due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“While the 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 vaccine will not protect against Covid-19; however, the flu vaccination has many other important benefits – it is shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalisation and death,” said Dr al-Hamad. “Following known methods of preventing the spread of Covid-19, like practising social distancing, wearing a face mask in public and proper hand washing, can also go a long way toward keeping you protected from Covid-19 and the flu."
For more information about the flu vaccine and where to get it in Qatar, one can go to www.fighttheflu.qa
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