MOH News
Minister of Health Lauds Efforts of Health Workers
23 November 2014
 His Excellency the Acting Minister of Health, Eng. Adel Faqih, has thanked workers in the public and private health sectors for their efforts to face the challenges of diseases, describing them as the first line of defense against infections in the community.
This came in a speech he delivered during a medical symposium on the seasonal influenza, which was opened today (Sunday) at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh with the attendance of more than 250 physicians and specialists from the public and private sectors working in Riyadh. He said that the symposium came in the context of the vaccination activities carried out by the Ministry of Health (MOH), including the Seasonal Flu Vaccination Program which was launched by the Ministry throughout the Kingdom with the aim of providing the seasonal flu vaccination for half a million people, who are most vulnerable to the risks of serious complications once they develop the disease, as well as those working in the health sector.
The Minister said, “The MOH highly appreciates those who respond to the flu vaccination campaign and show keenness to achieve its objectives in their facilities, due to its importance in maintaining the health and safety of the targeted groups.”
On his part, the Deputy Minister of Health for Public Health, Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Saeed, underscored the importance of the Seasonal Flu Vaccination Campaign in protecting the health and safety of those working in the health sector as they are the first and main targeted group of the program for this year, due to the fact that they are directly in contact with the various medical cases. Also, they can play an important role in rendering the program's objectives a success by advising their colleagues and patients to take their vaccination annually.
 He said, “We as physicians and specialists shoulder a collective responsibility beyond the care of the patients as individuals to include maintaining the health and safety of the community as a whole and vaccinating its members against the potential risks that may threaten them. The world’s scientific and medical community succeeded in controlling the global flu outbreaks during the past decades through the vaccination campaigns, the matter which gave us a false sense of security. As a result, the flu was not covered by the media outlets like the others infectious diseases, and accordingly some people may have underestimated the risk of this common infection as a real threat to the safety and lives of thousands of peoples.”
In the same vein, Eng. Faqih went on saying, “The truth is contrary to that as we know from such a countless number of national and international studies, researches and statistics that seasonal flu, at the least, stands behind such a remarkable and documented increase in the rates of absence from work and schools, and behind the growing number of patients at the intensive care units and mortality rates as a direct or indirect result of infection. Our story with flu is one of the important examples of the success of science in facing the potential challenge of the infectious diseases, as same as the other infectious diseases which claimed many lives throughout the history. But now, it has become a thing of the past, thanks to Allah at the first place and then to the adoption of the international vaccination policies.”
Dr. Saeed added that the Seasonal Flu Vaccination Campaign came as an initiative developed by the MOH in accordance with the recommendations, experiences and best international practices, which proved success in reducing the spread of flu and its effects on general health. It also comes as part of the MOH’s effective and useful steps to protect the most vulnerable categories against the risks of flu complications, which, for more than five decades, have significantly contributed to reducing the risk of the spread of flu internationally.
He pointed out that the anticipated risk and the real health burden of seasonal flu is bigger than all other diseases. Although the breaking news in most cases focus shallowly on the instantaneous issues, the researches and statistics tell us that the consequences of the spread of seasonal flu have a direct and effective impact on a wide range of the most vulnerable categories, to the extent that they may pose a real challenge to the health system.
Dr. Saeed explained that the success of any flu vaccination campaign depends on vaccination of two different categories: The first includes the infected persons who are most vulnerable to the complications once they develop the disease, while the second refers to the persons who are at greater risk of infection and therefore transmitting it to the others.
He added that the vaccination campaign in its first year is focusing on the workers in the health sector, in addition to those suffering from chronic diseases and pregnant women. The choice of health workers as a key element in the program is of dual benefits: The vaccination of the largest number of them leads to their prevention and at the same time the prevention of all visitors of the health facilities. Also, the health workers can play a significant role in promoting efforts aimed at spreading awareness, education and vaccination recommendations among patients, colleagues and even those surrounding them in their family and society.
Moreover, Dr. Saeed said that the campaign aims, during the next five years, Allah willing, to expand the scope of vaccinations to include 75% of the total number of the targeted categories, including children, elderly and pilgrims, as well as the segments of this year's campaign such as pregnant women and health workers suffering from chronic diseases.
In conclusion, Dr. Saeed said, “We as physicians know that about half of those infected with flu don't show any symptoms, but every one of them may spread the infection to those who have less ability to fight the disease,” adding that the flu vaccination is the most important way to prevent the infection. “We are so well aware of the effects of the vaccination on the health of us all and the health of our patients, families and society.”
Within the same vein, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health for Preventive Health, Dr. Abdullah Al-Asiri, delivered a lecture about the virus causing seasonal flu and the potential risks of infection, and said, “More than 250,000 vaccinations have been provided in hospitals and health centers out of 500,000 vaccinations to be distributed throughout the Kingdom.”
On her part, the MOH's Manageress of the National Wide-scale Immunity Program, Dr. A'asha'a Al- Shammari, said during a lecture she delivered on the national flu vaccination program and its objectives over five years, “Taking the annual flu vaccination is necessary because the immunity system's response to the flu viruses decreases over time due to the constant change of the viruses, therefore the vaccination is updated annually by the World Health Organization "WHO" to cope up with changing viruses.”
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Infection Control at the National Guard's Health Affairs Directorate, Dr. Hanan Balkhi, has expounded the health affairs' expertise in the field of vaccination campaigns during the past few years, indicating the successes and challenges they have faced on the sidelines of the National Guard's flu vaccination program.
The symposium included a panel discussion with the audience, during which the present physicians' questions were answered and their opinions and proposals were discussed with the aim to improve and develop the program in the coming years.
It is noteworthy that the campaign targets those working in the health care sector, pregnant women, and those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and patients with heart and chest diseases and others, as studies indicated that the flu vaccination curbs the spread of the infection within the community and reduces the possibility of developing the serious flu complications by 70 – 90%.

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