DUBAI // Hospitals and clinics in Dubai have been given six months to improve their immunisation services and bring them up to a new standard.
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) last week issued all private and public healthcare facilities in the emirate immunisation guidelines that must be adopted if they are to provide vaccination services.
The guidelines stipulate that hospitals and clinics must adopt a reporting and recording system that will be monitored by the DHA's health regulation department.
"This is the first comprehensive immunisation guideline to be implemented in the UAE and it will undoubtedly improve the immunisation process in Dubai," said Dr Ali al Marzooqi, the director of public health and safety at the DHA.
"Any healthcare centre, big or small, private or public, used to provide immunisations sporadically in the past, without following any set guidelines," he said.
Based on surveys conducted by the DHA, there have previously been no vaccine quality checks, no confirmation of proper storage conditions and no system of correct administration, said Dr al Marzooqi.
"There were also no follow-ups on the children being registered for vaccines, and whether they were coming in for their second or third doses at the right time, because there was no standard record-keeping," he said.
Dr Laila al Jassimi, the chief executive for health policy and strategy at the DHA, said that having a uniform policy would eliminate problems caused by inadequate co-ordination between Dubai's various health sectors.
Dr al Jassimi said that patients could get their shots at any of the government's 14 primary healthcare centres, as well as Al Wasl and Dubai hospitals, in addition to the private clinics that will be licensed as Vaccine Qualified Clinics.
"These clinics have been given six months to meet the stringent criteria for providing vaccination services and apply for licensing," she said. "This way, parents will be sure that their children are receiving safe vaccinations."
A DHA study conducted in 2010 showed improvement was needed to ensure children received the appropriate shots, said Dr al Marzooqi.
"Vaccines are not 100 per cent effective if the booster shots, for example, are ignored by parents, and it is the healthcare facility's responsibility to follow up with the parents and get them to bring their children in for the follow-up doses," he said.
The survey found that 40 per cent of the 50 clinics questioned did not have a system to remind patients.
Additionally, more than a quarter of the clinics were not following the national immunisation schedule set by the Ministry of Health [see box].
Two thirds of clinics were not reporting adverse side effects of the vaccines, and the DHA reported that no numbers were on hand to show how many clinics - private or public - were providing vaccinations in the emirate.
"These new rules will allow us to know how many clinics in the emirate provide vaccination services," Dr al Marzooqi said.
He also said that the new policy would require healthcare facilities providing childhood immunisation services to follow the national immunisation schedule.
"We understand that there are some parents who want their child to be given a different schedule, but the national immunisation schedule was developed to suit the disease burden in UAE.
"Parents will be allowed to give their children other vaccines not included in the immunisation schedule, if they choose to do so," he said.
Dr Hisham al Khatib, a senior public health specialist at the DHA, said a training course, run by experts accredited by the World Health Organisation, would wrap up in Dubai on Thursday. "The training course was made available to all healthcare providers in Dubai, ahead of their plans to get licensed," he said.