The call for taking the seasonal flu vaccine gains importance given the growing cases of seasonal influenza across the Sultanate of Oman, say practicing doctors.
Muscat: People in the Sultanate of Oman have been urged to get a jab of seasonal flu vaccine as the vaccine is safe.
The call for taking the seasonal flu vaccine gains importance given the growing cases of seasonal influenza across the Sultanate of Oman, according to the Ministry of Health and practicing doctors.
Speaking to Times of Oman, Dr. Zaid Al Hinai, a paediatric infectious diseases consultant at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), said: “The spread of influenza cases is currently on the rise and we have started to monitor severe infections among children and adults. We have noticed cases among individuals who do not suffer from chronic diseases.
“The seasonal influenza virus is similar to what we have seen in the past but I think the only difference is rising number of cases. But over the last two years it was the COVID-19 pandemic and not many were affected by seasonal flu. The herd immunity decreases if the virus is receding. So the infections this year are like infections for the first time, and the symptoms are stronger and more widespread.”
He stressed the importance of vaccination against influenza and said that a “seasonal flu vaccine is very important.”
Dr. Al Hinai said: “The vaccination is free at health centres for anyone with chronic diseases, obese, or aged over 50, and pregnant women as well. Vaccination is also available to everyone at private hospitals.”
Speaking to Times of Oman, Dr. Fatma Hashim Abdullah Al Hashmi, Director of disease surveillance and control, Directorate general of health services North Batinah Governorate, said: “We have noticed a rise in the cases of seasonal influenza in the Governorate of North Al Batinah. The rise in cases is not just confined to the governorate of North Al Batinah, but to all the governorates. Cases of seasonal influenza began in early September this year, and the main reason was community members mingled freely.”
Dr. Fatma Al Hashmi added: “The academic year began from September and as we know that children, especially in schools, play with each other and share a lot of things. They are more susceptible to infection. The transmission of the virus is fast as the children carry the virus to their homes.”
She also indicated that the number of seasonal influenza cases is similar to what was noticed in 2018 and 2019.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the numbers were mixed as both seasonal influenza and COVID-19 patients experienced similar symptoms.
The doctor further said that people took precautions during the pandemic by wearing masks among other measures that helped in the control of the spread of seasonal influenza virus.
The doctor admitted that there is a reluctance among people to take the seasonal influenza vaccine.
“The reason could be attributed to the lack of awareness of the benefits of taking vaccines in the society,” she added.
‘Do not heed rumours’
She urged people not to heed rumours and stressed the importance of spreading awareness among family members and society on the need for vaccines.
Dr. Asim Al Manji, Head of surveillance section, Department of Disease Surveillance and Control in Muscat region, said:
“There are several reasons for the growing cases of seasonal flu. The virus evolves every year and that’s why we recommend a seasonal flu vaccine to curb the spread and help patients recover soon.”
On the alleged reports that seasonal flu and COVID-19 vaccines weaken the immunity in the body, the doctor said: “One should pay heed to such reports only if they are based on a globally recognised study or published in scientific journals.”
“People shouldn’t go by personal conclusions or interpretations based on flimsy and baseless evidence. The rumours do no good to patients nor to society. Let’s stop the spread of fake messages and rumours as it may cause the loss of lives.”
Dr. Fatma Al Hashmi confirmed that the seasonal flu vaccine is currently available in government hospitals for certain groups, including the elderly (over 50 years), who suffer from chronic diseases or breathing problems, as well as pregnant women.
“Those outside these groups can visit private health centres and receive vaccines to protect themselves, their families and loved ones from infection,” he said.