Posted on May 02, 2016

Thirty-seven (37) students from Qatar University (QU) health cluster colleges of Health Sciences (CHS), Medicine (CMED) and Pharmacy (CPH) participated in an immunization awareness campaign organized by the QU Health cluster in recognition of International Immunization Week April 24-28. The 5-day event aimed at increasing public awareness on issues, myths and challenges related to immunization, and included contributions from Qatar Ministry of Public Health and Qatar Red Crescent (QRC).

Twenty-eight (28) public health students contributed to an awareness booth that was set up in the women’s Food Court to brief students and visitors on immunization in Qatar, conduct a quiz and present other interactive activities. Qatar children’s immunization schedule was also distributed at the booth. The  booth also featured a flu shot campaign on Monday and Wednesday for the provision of flu vaccines. Free flu vaccination shots were offered to around 150 students by a team of practitioners from Qatar Ministry of Public Health. Additionally, Ms Sali Mohsen Hafether, a disaster response coordinator at QRC’s relief and international development office, delivered on Thursday a lecture “Insights on the Inside-Syria Immunization Campaign”, in which she highlighted the immunization challenges in conflict areas.

QU health cluster observes World 2 [].jpgIn the spirit of contributing knowledge and expertise towards public awareness, QU Health cluster members also joined the World Health Organization’s (WHO) social media campaign titled “Close the Immunization Gap” using the hashtag #vaccineswork, and made use of other WHO awareness material including web banners, posters and others. To contribute to community awareness through media outlets, faculty members Dr Sana Abudahab, Prof Ala-edin El Mustafa and Dr Hadi Yassine, delivered radio interviews throughout the week on Qatar Radio. They addressed a wide range of topics such as the link between autism and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, vaccinations and specific types of cancers, the importance of adult immunizations, and seasonal flu and epidemic vaccines, respectively.

Commenting on the event, QU VP for Medical Education and CMED dean Dr Egon Toft said: “In addition to its value in community service and public awareness, the campaign presents a learning opportunity for our students to bear an understanding of their future roles in educating the public on important public health issues. These service learning  activities complement their class work in no small measure and showcase the collaborative aspect of  inter-professional medical education reflected in the cluster. The collaboration in delivering this campaign with relevant civil society and government organizations is also very important to us.”   

“The health of the Qatari society is our utmost priority, and raising a healthy generation and providing the ultimate support to the country’s healthcare sector are part of the College’s mission,” said CHS dean Dr Asmaa Al-Thani. She added: “Biomedical sciences students had the opportunity to explore various types of vaccines and approached the topic of vaccinations from different perspectives. Nutrition students were mostly concerned with healthy lifestyle and focused on potential nutritional remedies and lifestyle strategies to deal with viral diseases such as Polio. The main contribution came from our Public Health students and their faculty leaders. They played a pivotal role in raising awareness among the Qatari community.”

QU health cluster observes World 3 [].jpg

CPH dean Dr Ayman El-Kadi said: “Immunization campaigns such as this one are crucial in the fight to treat childhood infectious diseases. While the College of Pharmacy is actively involved in the research and the development of new drug-delivery models which may benefit future immunization campaigns, our current students benefit from the opportunity to work alongside their peers in the QU Health cluster, share their knowledge, and make lasting connections. Vaccine literacy is a vital component of public health education, and pharmacists are well-positioned to lead this initiative alongside other healthcare professionals.”

Dr Yassine noted that infectious diseases such as measles, mumps, polio, and many others are still a threat to the mankind. “Although immunization has saved billions of lives and prevented numerous illnesses around the globe during the past century, new pathogens continue to emerge such as Zika virus and coronaviruses, resulting in millions of hospitalizations and deaths every year,” he said, adding, “vaccines against many of these pathogens are either available or under development. The use of these vaccines would significantly reduce the health and economic burdens caused by these pathogens.”

CHS student Amal Nasser said: “The Public Health program at CHS and its leadership inspired us to build tight bonds with the Qatari community and provide the necessary educational services to protect future generations from diseases.”