Government’s vaccine scheme against fatal bug ‘messy and confusing’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 11:28pm

Parents are confused and worried over when their children will receive a government-funded injection against a deadly pneumococcal bug, lawmakers said.

Children under the care of public hospitals who are deemed at “high-risk” or who receive government welfare will start receiving free jabs from Monday.

Those children who have not yet received the first dose of the pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar 13 (PCV13) must wait for a subsidised scheme which will start by the end of this month, which will give parents a HK$50 subsidy for a jab at private clinic.

“The parents are very confused as the information given by the government is very messy,” said Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki in a special panel at Legco on Monday.

The parents are very confused as the information given by the government is very messy
Dr Kwok Ka-ki

The government should give clearer advice to parents, and consider urgent plan to address their concern, he said.

Lawmaker Ann Chiang Lai-wan said parents had complained that the injection currently costs more than HK$1,000 at private clinics, and that they did not want to wait until the scheme began.

Some parents are also worried over whether their children who have already received a shot should receive another injection after the Centre of Health Protection said protection offered by the vaccine would only last six to 10 months, Kwok said.

The scheme was launched after two children died of Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 3 infection last month. A government vaccination programme has offered protection against the strain through pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar 13 (PCV13) since 2011.

However children vaccinated before 2011 received vaccines which did not protect against serotype 3.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man stressed that the parents should not be overly worried, and that it was not necessary to rush to get an injection.

“We understand parents are very nervous. We will do it if we can begin the scheme early. But all the experts agreed this is no need to be an emergency injection scheme,” he said.

Ko admitted that the information given out by the government on the vaccine had been confusing, as the government could not give a clear answer on the effectiveness of the booster.

“There are different medical journals and different views of experts on the protectiveness of this vaccine. The government could not unify their views – so we can only be as transparent as possible in giving out information.”

As of Monday, seven children are fighting for their lives in public hospitals against invasive pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae.