First batch of H1N1 vaccine arrives in UAE


Vaccination will be done as per the UAE National Immunisation Plan, which will be rolled out after minor modifications by the end of the week or early next, health ministry sources said.

Haj pilgrims will be given top priority under the modified plan but it will be their choice whether or not to be vaccinated, one source said. Each vaccinated individual will be provided with an international vaccination certificate.

“Though the World Health Organisation recommends giving priority to healthcare workers and other people under the high risk category in the first round of vaccinations, we have modified the plan due to the Haj season,” said the source.

The manufacturing company has promised to deliver a total of 900,000 doses in batches in 2009.

Dr Aly Ziwar, GlaxoSmithKline’s Medical and Regulatory Director, Gulf and Near East, said delivery of the vaccine had been pushed through because of concerns of the health risks posed during Haj. “Yes, the vaccine has been delivered as priority for pilgrims,” he said.

Saudi Arabia said on Monday it is to vaccinate all its residents attending the Haj.

Although earlier studies had pointed out the need for two doses of the vaccine to be given 21 days apart, a recent study has suggested that a single dose was giving an equally good response.

The UAE health ministry has been studying a dossier presented by the company on the safety of the drug, which has already been approved for use in the European Union. Today it is expected to make the formal announcements regarding the local registration of the drug.

However, before the immunisation process starts, the ministry will launch a multi-pronged campaign to spread awareness on the need for and safety of the vaccine.

“We will involve the media in spreading the message and will also keep them updated on what steps the ministry is taking,” the ministry source said.

A number of medical personnel will be trained on administering the vaccine through mobile and fixed units at primary healthcare and mother and childcare centres, school health departments, preventive medicine departments in the country. The Dubai Health Authority has already fixed 13 primary healthcare centres for the vaccination, while GlaxoSmithKline is finalising talks to offer free training courses to the ministry staff in this regard.

Heads of departments in all medical districts will also be trained on safety, storage, adverse effects and appropriate waste disposal of the vaccine. The new head of the Technical Health Committee to Combat H1N1, Dr Mahmoud Fikri, refused to comment on the issue but promised future transparency with the media.

Saudi Arabia said it has received the first tranche of 11 million vaccine doses and authorities were to begin vaccinating hundreds of thousands of health and other haj workers, as well as domestic pilgrims, against swine flu from next week, Dr Ziad Memish, the assistant deputy health minister for preventive medicine, told AFP. “The priority is for local pilgrims,” he said.


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