Group recommends flu vaccine subsidy for all young children

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 June, 2008, 12:00am

A medical practitioners' group has called on the government to provide a HK$100 subsidy for flu vaccinations for all children between the ages of six months and five years.

Hong Kong Doctors Union president Henry Yeung Chiu-fat said more children could be vaccinated in private clinics if the subsidies were made available.

The financial support would encourage parents to have their children vaccinated - the best way to prevent a flu outbreak.

Thomas Tsang Ho-fai, controller of the Centre for Health Protection, said the government had yet to decide how to subsidise vaccinations for about 250,000 children. But he said a detailed proposal would come 'within one or two months' and be implemented at the end of this year.

The government put forward a plan to subsidise flu vaccinations earlier this month, but has yet to decide whether it will be a partial or full subsidy.

Dr Tsang agreed that a financial incentive would help get more children vaccinated for flu. But he noted that some factors - including the extra financial burden on the government - also had to be considered.

'It will depend on how much the parents would be willing to pay, the cost of flu vaccinations and the implications for government finances.'

Over the past decade, an average of one in 10 children aged two to five has been admitted to hospital every year with serious cases of flu, a government survey has found.

As a result, the health centre's Scientific Committee on Vaccine for Preventable Disease recently put children of that age group on a list of those recommended for flu vaccines.

The administration recommends to parents that children aged six months to 23 months be vaccinated, but only families on welfare or children with certain chronic illnesses get the vaccine free.

Meanwhile, Dr Yeung said a Hospital Authority subsidy project in Tin Shui Wai had attracted only five private doctors to join since its implementation this month.

The scheme provides HK$150 subsidies to chronically ill patients at general outpatient clinics when they visit a private doctor. Dr Yeung recommended the subsidy be raised to HK$200 to cover more of the cost.