Subsidy for child flu shots will rise to HK$130
Parents will get a bigger subsidy to give their children the flu vaccine when this year's vaccination scheme begins next month, the Centre for Health Protection said yesterday.
The subsidy will rise by HK$50, to HK$130, to match the sum offered to elderly people. The centre is also warning that those who were vaccinated last year may not be protected this year, as the flu strain mutates.
Some of the 1,000 private doctors who accept the subsidy ask for no additional fees, although some collect an extra charge of up to HK$200. The scheme covers children aged between six months and six years, and people over 65.
The centre's controller, Dr Thomas Tsang Ho-fai, urged people at high risk to get the vaccine, despite past evidence that vaccination did not guarantee a flu-free winter. 'The influenza vaccine last year only offered 50 per cent protection, as the speed of virus mutation outpaced the development of the vaccine,' he said.
The centre said in June that there had been a rare mid-season vaccination in what was the longest flu season in a decade, stretching from January into the summer, rather than ending in March as in most years.
'The latest vaccine contains a different viral composition than last year, as the virus in circulation has mutated over the year,' Tsang (pictured) said.
'That means those who got a shot last year should take another one this year, or there may not be enough protection.'
Just 43,000 children were vaccinated last year under the scheme, a 10 per cent drop year on year, although the number of elderly people receiving the injection increased by 4 per cent to 180,000.
Tsang hopes the increased allowance will encourage more parents to get their children vaccinated. The new subsidy scheme starts on September 24. People can visit the centre's website to find a list of doctors offering subsidised vaccinations, as well as their prices.
A separate vaccination scheme will be launched in November for chronically ill people and pregnant women. Some 280,000 doses of vaccine will be available for that group at public hospitals and health centres.
Such was the seriousness of this year's flu season that the disease caused an average of one death a day. The number of cases per week peaked at 1,000 in May, and 225 people died from the flu between January 13 and last Thursday, when the centre ended its enhanced surveillance of seasonal influenza.
Almost 90 per cent of those who died were over 65.