Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

Doctors: UAE immunisation programme an effective barrier

National figures show more than 95 per cent of children are protected against 14 common childhood diseases

The UAE has an effective childhood immunisation programme but doctors have warned parents against complacency. Getty 
The UAE has an effective childhood immunisation programme but doctors have warned parents against complacency. Getty 

Almost all children are protected from a host of killer diseases in the UAE thanks to a widespread childhood vaccination programme.

However, doctors said the number of vaccinations on offer and those taking them up can wildly vary from year-to-year.

At Bareen International Hospital in Mohamed bin Zayed City, Abu Dhabi, 354 children received vaccinations in 2017.

That figure dropped to 148 in 2018 before increasing this year to 256.

Doctors said variable figures are due to availability of vaccines, the number of working paediatricians and the total number of patients visiting hospitals.

“Some parents think vaccines can cause more harm than good to their children,” said Dr Anuradha Ajesh, a paediatrician at Bareen International Hospital.

“Some parents link MMR vaccines with autism — although no hard scientific evidence has been found to support this conclusion.

“Some parents think vaccines contains toxins that will harm their babies more than protect them.

"Another misconception is that vaccines may prompt diseases which they are in fact meant to prevent.

“If vaccine administration will be put to a halt, those contagious, dangerous, and possibly deadly diseases which disappeared over time may start coming back.”

A widespread fear that vaccines increased risk of autism originated from a 1997 study published by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield in respected medical journal, The Lancet.

It suggested the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine was increasing autism in British children but has since been completely discredited due to ethical violations and serious procedural errors, costing Wakefield his medical license.

Doctors at the 120 New Medical Centre health facilities and clinics in the UAE delivered more than 60,000 flu shots in the winter of 2018-19.

As the flu virus mutates each year, manufactures face a race against time each summer to prepare the most suitable preventive vaccine in time for winter.

“By and large, the protection provided by the vaccination is far more than any side effects,” said Dr Wael Mohamed, a paediatric specialist at NMC Royal Hospital, Abu Dhabi.

“Any children who missed their vaccination can complete their schedule through a tailored made programme so they are adequately protected.”

To date, GlaxoSmithKline has provided around 35 million total vaccine doses to the UAE.

The company exports 12 different vaccines to the Emirates, covering 13 different vaccine preventable diseases.

A third of GSK’s vaccines in development target diseases common in emerging markets, including all three World Health Organisation infectious disease priorities of HIV, Malaria and tuberculosis.

Government figures show the UAE has an uptake of more than 95 per cent in 14 of the vaccines it offers during childhood.

“Vaccination is a means to build natural immunity against certain contagious, dangerous, and deadly diseases and keeps the general public from getting and spreading the disease,” said Dr Ajesh.

Updated: December 28, 2019 08:40 AM

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