Vaccinations and your medical insurance in Dubai
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Vaccinations and your medical insurance in Dubai

The last week of April was World Immunization Week, an annual initiative dedicated to promoting the use of vaccines. Our article looks at everything you need to know about vaccinations and your medical insurance in Dubai.

The last week of April (24 - 30 April) marked yet another successful World Immunization Week. As part of an annual initiative dedicated to promoting the use of vaccines, the week highlighted the importance of immunization as a top global priority in ensuring that people of all ages are protected against potentially fatal diseases.

Vaccinations have helped prevent at least 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015. As such, it’s clear to see that the world has made remarkable progress in this respect. What’s more, in 2015 around 85% of the world’s children received the measles vaccine - up 73% from 2000!

Despite these improvements, today 19.4 million children in the world remain either unvaccinated or undervaccinated. With this in mind, it’s evident that there’s still a long way to go toward achieving the World Health Organization’s (WHO) goal for everyone, everywhere to “survive and thrive”.

Our article sheds light on everything you need to know about vaccinations in Dubai, and further looks at whether your medical insurance plan covers vaccines.

World Immunization Week 2017 in Dubai

To celebrate World Immunization Week, the Primary Health Care Sector held a health exhibition under the theme “Vaccines Work”. This underlying theme of World Immunization Week 2017 not only highlights the effectiveness of vaccines, but was also aimed at eradicating some of the misconceptions people may have in regards to the safety of vaccinations.

Further activities held at health centers include awareness classes, complimentary consultations, education sessions for staff, etc. Immunization coverage for children utilizing vaccination services from primary healthcare centers in 2016 was 96%. Rashid Hospital’s Trauma section also launched an adult vaccination campaign to promote the importance of vaccinations among various populations in the UAE.

Are vaccines safe? Do they work?

Vaccines are without a doubt safe. Any licensed vaccine will go through multiple rounds of rigorous trials and tests before they are approved for use. Scientists will also continue to monitor information from many sources for any indications that a vaccine may cause adverse effects. The fact of the matter is that it’s far more likely for someone to be seriously ill or even die from not being vaccinated against potentially deadly diseases (e.g. whooping cough).

While good hygiene standards and drinking clean water definitely helps protect people from contracting infectious diseases, many diseases can still spread easily, regardless of how clean we are. As such, being vaccinated is the best way to avoid contracting a whole host of diseases. That being said, many people remain sceptical about the safety of vaccines.

Common myths about vaccines

The internet is filled with a plethora of websites publishing misleading information on vaccines. As a result, these anti-vaccine movements have amassed a following of advocates and supporters who believe that vaccines are dangerous. Here, we’ve gathered a few common myths about vaccines:

    • Myth #1: Vaccines cause autism. The myth began in 1997 when a study published by Andrew Wakefield in The Lancet, a medical journal, linked the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine with an increased incidence of autism. This paper was later discredited due to a number of procedural errors and other ethical violations. Additionally, major studies were further conducted and found that there’s no such link between any vaccine and the likelihood of developing autism
    • Myth #2: Certain ingredients in vaccines are toxic. A common tactic used by anti-vaccine websites is to publish the list of chemicals used in vaccines, simply because the ingredients sound scary. For example, many people are concerned about the antifungal agent used to preserve multi-dose vials of vaccine (called thimerosal) because it has mercury in it. Although this is true, it actually contains low levels of the harmless type of mercury (ethyl mercury), which can be broken down by the body. On the other hand, methyl mercury is the bad type; commonly found in tuna, king mackerel, and swordfish.
    • Myth #3: Infant immune systems simply can’t tolerate so many vaccines. Many people think that infant immune systems are too vulnerable to handle so many vaccines. This can’t be further from the truth, because based on the number of antibodies present in an infant’s body, their immune systems can actually handle 10,000 vaccines at one time!

The science behind vaccines

To understand vaccines, let’s first look at how our immune systems work. When harmful substances enter our bodies, your immune system identifies them and reacts accordingly to destroy these germs.

After your body has experienced fighting these germs, if it comes across the same germs again it will destroy them before they have a chance to make you ill. In other words, your body will become immune to these particular germs.This is why most people will only experience getting chicken pox once, even if they might be exposed to it again later on.

Vaccines work by injecting an imitation injection to help you develop immunity without getting ill. What this means is that the vaccines will contain weakened or killed germs so that your immune system reacts by producing the antibodies necessary to give you immunity.

The Dubai Health Authority’s immunization schedule

If you’re a parent or caregiver raising your child in Dubai, you can refer to the information below. Routine immunizations are started in infancy, and parents should ensure that their child does not miss any vaccinations by keeping an updated record of their child’s vaccinations. Please note that vaccination schedules vary in different parts of the world, so you may need to make a balanced decision based on your home country’s schedule and the DHA’s schedule.

The Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) vaccine schedule recommends the following vaccinations for children aged 0 to 6 years old (click here to learn more about the below vaccines and diseases):

    • At birth: BCG (a vaccine against tuberculosis), and Hepatitis B.
    • Two months: DTaP (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus), Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), Hepatitis B, polio, and pneumococcal vaccine.
    • Four months: DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus booster), Hib, Hepatitis B, oral polio vaccine, and pneumococcal vaccine.
    • Six months: DPT, Hib, Hepatitis B, oral polio vaccine, and pneumococcal vaccine.
    • 12 months: MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), and varicella.
    • 18 months: DTap, Hib, oral polio vaccine, and pneumococcal vaccine.
    • 5 to 6 years: DPT, oral polio vaccine, MMR, and varicella.

And here’s the DHA’s immunization schedule for persons aged 7 to 18 years old:

    • Td/Tdap (tetanus and diphtheria booster/ tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster for adolescents and adults for those who have completed the DTP/DTap during childhood)
    • MCV4 (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) for those aged 11 to 12 years old, and at 13 to 18 if not previously vaccinated. MPSV4 (meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine) is also a good alternative.
    • Hepatitis B 3-dose series for anyone not previously vaccinated.
    • Varicella 2-dose series if not previously immunized.
    • MMR 2-dose series at least 4 weeks apart if not previously immunized.
    • The human papilloma virus vaccine is recommended for girls aged 11 to 16 years old.

*Booster: an extra administration of a vaccine after an earlier dose.

Please note that children aged 4 months to 6 years old should follow a catch up schedule if they’re one month behind or started late. You can find the catch up immunization schedule here.

Adults also need vaccines

It’s important that you keep up to date with all vaccinations - even as an adult - as there are plenty of boosters available for adults (e.g. tetanus). Hepatitis A, an infectious disease of the liver, occurs in Dubai. Therefore besides ensuring that you take strict hygiene precautions, it’s recommended that you get vaccinated as well.

If you’re planning to travel, it’s also important that you check whether you’ll need vaccines for further protection in the location you are travelling to (e.g. yellow fever in Africa and Latin America, and Japanese encephalitis in Southeast Asia). You may also want to make it a habit to get the annual flu jab, especially if you’re particularly vulnerable to developing more serious illnesses like pneumonia.

Will your medical insurance cover vaccinations?

Amidst the rising cost of healthcare, it’s a good idea to double check whether your health insurance covers vaccinations. As every Dubai resident must secure health insurance that complies with the minimum level of cover required, even the most basic DHA mandated health insurance calls for certain vaccination benefits. That said, it only covers essential vaccinations for newborns and children.

To ascertain whether your health insurance covers other vaccines, as well as vaccinations for adults, you’ll need to take a look at your policy and find out whether you’ve got the vaccination benefit (typically listed under the outpatient benefit). Generally speaking, insurers will usually cap the coverage amount on the vaccination benefit.

Sometimes, health insurance plans will also impose a waiting period on this benefit, meaning you’ll need wait a certain amount of time from the inception of your plan before you’re eligible for making any claims on that particular benefit.

One other thing to look out for is that some basic Essential Benefits Plans (EBP) may not cover you outside of Dubai. If you’re living outside of the emirate (e.g. Sharjah), you may want to check whether coverage for non-emergency medical care is included in your plan. That being said, many EBPs will cover care throughout the UAE. For further information on the EBP, check out our article here.

Considering a top up plan? Contact UAE Medical Insurance today

For a more comprehensive level of cover, or for international coverage that offsets your vaccination and/or other medical care benefits virtually anywhere in the world, be sure to contact the insurance experts at UAE Medical Insurance today. Leveraging our partnerships with the world’s top health insurance providers, we’re always on hand to provide you with impartial advice, as well as offer you a free quote!


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