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Surge in Demand for Flu Vaccine as UAE Implements New Travel Rule for Umrah Pilgrims

Surge in Demand for Flu Vaccine as UAE Implements New Travel Rule for Umrah Pilgrims

In response to the recent mandate by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) requiring influenza vaccination for Umrah pilgrims, hospitals in the UAE are witnessing a significant uptick in the demand for flu vaccines. This surge follows the implementation of new travel regulations for individuals planning to undertake Umrah during Ramadan.

As per the directive issued by MoHAP, all travelers embarking on the pilgrimage to Umrah and Hajj are now obligated to provide proof of influenza vaccination. Effective from March 26, 2024, Umrah travelers are required to display their influenza vaccination certificates before departure. MoHAP strongly recommends administering the vaccine at least 10 days prior to departure to ensure vaccine efficacy and immunity.

To comply with these regulations, several UAE airlines, including Etihad Airways, have begun enforcing the influenza vaccination requirement for passengers traveling from the UAE to Saudi Arabia for Umrah. Etihad Airways recently announced that all passengers, except certain categories, flying from Abu Dhabi to Jeddah must possess an influenza vaccination certificate. Passengers are required to present the certificate at check-in, either in paper hardcopy or through an approved UAE digital health application.

The implementation of these regulations has led to a rush at hospitals across the UAE, with many individuals, particularly those preparing for Umrah during Ramadan, prioritizing getting vaccinated. Dr. Lulu Azeez A, a specialist in Internal Medicine at Aster Hospital Al Qusais, highlighted that the announcement has prompted individuals to ensure compliance with the authorities’ requirements.

Dr. Saira Haider, a general practitioner at Burjeel Day Surgery Centre, Al Reem, emphasized that some patients are seeking vaccination services on short notice to update their vaccination status on the Al Hosn app before departure. Dr. Jyothish George, a specialist dermatologist and director of Homecare services and Vaccination at Prime Hospital, noted an increase in flu vaccine-related inquiries amid the surge in demand.

Given the 10-day validity requirement for the vaccine certificate, individuals planning to perform Umrah during Ramadan are urged to get vaccinated promptly. Dr. Haider stressed the importance of receiving vaccinations promptly to allow sufficient time for immunity development against flu viruses.

Healthcare facilities in the UAE are fully equipped to handle the increased demand and have ensured ample stocks of vaccines. Special arrangements, including walk-in vaccinations, homecare services, increased staffing, extended hours, and streamlined scheduling, have been made to accommodate the sudden surge in demand.

While the cost of the flu vaccine at private healthcare facilities varies depending on the vaccine formulation and promotional offers, Emiratis can receive it for free, and expat residents can avail of it for Dh50 at designated ambulatory health centers. Generally, the cost ranges from Dh75 to Dh120 at private healthcare facilities.

In conclusion, the implementation of mandatory influenza vaccination for Umrah pilgrims has led to a surge in demand for flu vaccines across the UAE. With healthcare facilities prepared to meet the increased demand, individuals planning to undertake Umrah during Ramadan are urged to prioritize vaccination to ensure compliance with travel requirements and safeguard public health.

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