UAE expects Covid vaccine to be widely available by late 2020 or early 2021

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Emirati officials expect to see a vaccine on the global market by late this year or early 2021.

Dr Farida Al Hosani, a government health spokeswoman and a director of Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, said the timescale depended on trial results.

The expert in infectious disease said officials were monitoring the latest developments in vaccine trials around the world.

“We are closely following all of the updates with a Covid vaccine and there is more than one (vaccine) candidate,” she said.

We are expecting at a global level widespread use of vaccination will start at the end of this year or the beginning of next year

Dr Farida Al Hosani

“We are expecting that at a global level, widespread use of vaccination will start at the end of this year or the beginning of next year, based on the study results.”

The UAE was the main vaccine trial partner for Chinese drug maker Sinopharm, providing thousands of volunteers for a Phase III trial. A number of government officials including the Minister of Health have received an early approved version.

Dr Al Hosani spoke at the launch of a nationwide seasonal flu campaign to encourage the public to avoid overburdening hospitals this winter.

Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions were urged to get the jab, which is free for those categories.

The rest of the population can have the injection for Dh50.

Officials said it was safe to take the flu shot and the Covid vaccine – once available – as long as the jabs were weeks apart.

Once the flu vaccine has been taken, it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop.

The National's Nick Webster receives a flu jab from nurse Resy Hussain at Prime Hospital in . Medics urged the public to get vaccinated this winter, which may help to prevent confusion between flu and Covid-19 symptoms. Pawan Singh / The National

The vaccine costs patients between Dh25 and Dh70 in most UAE clinics and hospitals. Pawan Singh / The National

Dr Adel Mohamed Yasin Alsisi, a consultant in critical care at Prime Hospital, said elderly, children and those with underlying medical conditions should take the flu vaccine this winter. Pawan Singh / The National

Nurse Resy Hussain gives the flu shot to patient Flora Mae. Pawan Singh / The National

The vaccine does not give any protection against Covid-19, but could ease the burden on doctors this winter. Victor Besa / The National

Doctors said they expected to see flu case numbers increase from October.

Dr Hend Al Awadi, head of health promotion at Dubai Health Authority, said members of the public should see a doctor if they begin to feel flu symptoms.

Flu shot could ease pressure on hospitals this winter

"The symptoms are very similar between influenza and Covid-19, so it can be difficult to distinguish between the two," she said.

"If someone suspects they have either virus they should take all the precautionary measures and go to their nearest health facility.

"The doctor there will do a proper investigation to check which virus the patient has."

She added: "A PCR test will only be used for a suspected case of Covid-19. The doctor can do others tests to diagnose influenza.

"There are plenty of supplies of vaccine for influenza, anyone can visit a DHA facility for a vaccination, but we will focus on high-risk groups first.

"There is no issue between those who have taken the flu vaccine and those who have been involved in trials for the Covid-19 vaccine."

On Monday, the UAE recorded its lowest number of cases in three weeks after a significant spike in September.

Since the outbreak, nearly 9.5 million tests have been conducted nationwide.

Dr Anwar Wagdy Salam, chief medical officer of Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), said more cases of Covid-19 were being diagnosed due to the increased volume of testing under way.

“We can use this flu campaign to educate about the benefit in fighting both viruses,” he said.

“All of the precautionary measures such as hand hygiene, face masks and physical distancing should continue to be observed.

“I am very optimistic that during this season with the flu vaccine in place and these existing precautionary measures we should have a lower rate of complications associated with influenza.”

Updated: September 28, 2020 04:47 PM

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