60,000 children set to benefit from subsidy for flu vaccination

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 October, 2008, 12:00am

More than 1,000 private doctors have signed up to provide subsidised flu shots to children. Around 60,000 children are expected to take advantage of the scheme.

Parents will get a subsidy of HK$80 for each vaccine dose. A child who has not previously had a flu shot will need two doses.

Participating doctors are free to set additional fees and charges for vaccination. Some will charge nothing extra, while others will charge up to HK$350.

Announcing details of the scheme and its likely uptake by families yesterday, Thomas Tsang Ho-fai, controller of the Centre for Health Protection, said: 'Market transparency can make sure a reasonable price is charged.

'Around half of the doctors will charge HK$50 to HK$100.'

He noted that costlier vaccines delivered results no different to free ones.

The subsidies target children aged six months to six years, though children older than that who attend kindergartens or child care centres can also benefit.

There are about 300,000 children in the target group, and the centre expects 20 per cent of them to use the subsidies between November 1 and March 31. Each doctor in the scheme will see an average of around 60 children.

'We believe there's a sufficient pool of doctors,' Dr Tsang said.

Participating doctors and the prices they charge are listed on the subsidy scheme's website www.ivss. gov.hk and doctors will also put up logos outside their clinics to show they are taking part. The government will pay the subsidy directly to doctors.

The peak flu season runs from January to March.

'It is preferable for parents to take their children for vaccination in November and December, before the peak season,' Dr Tsang said.

In August, when he announced details of the scheme, Dr Tsang said the centre hoped the vaccination programme would reduce the number of children sent to hospital.

Hospital Authority figures show the annual average rate of admissions to hospital for flu and pneumonia between 1998 and last year was 172.3 per 10,000 for children aged under two and 136.6 per 10,000 for children aged two to five.

Dr Tsang reassured parents that flu vaccines are safe.

Some children might experience mild side effects, he said, but only one in a million suffers severe allergic reaction or neurological problems, he said.