But healthy seniors and babies will have to get their shots in private clinics Up to 250,000 people - twice as many as last year - will be vaccinated against flu before the peak winter season under the government's expanded programme. But many more babies, children and elderly will not receive the free immunisation and are instead being encouraged to go to private doctors. The flu vaccine will cover the Fujian H3N2 strain that caused outbreaks in the United States and Europe last winter. The outbreak killed at least 23 children in the US and five in Britain. Despite this, only children who are chronically ill and attend public hospitals and clinics will qualify for the government's flu vaccination programme, which will be given free of charge in November and December. The government spends about $25 per shot under the $6.25 million programme. Patients of psycho-geriatric wards and the mentally handicapped will also be immunised. Also eligible since last year are elderly people who live in old-age homes, residents of institutions for the disabled, chronically ill people in public hospitals, public clinic patients over 65 or on welfare, poultry workers, and health-care workers with the Department of Health and Hospital Authority. Last year, the government provided free flu shots to 120,000 people. The flu shots are given once a year. Healthy seniors over 65 and babies from six to 23 months would not qualify for the shot despite advice from the Scientific Committee on Vaccine-Preventable Disease, said Centre for Health Protection consultant Thomas Tsang Ho-fai. Dr Tsang said the government hoped a larger number of people would get their flu shots in private clinics so there would be wider coverage. 'For this programme to succeed, it is extremely important that the private and public sectors work together because we know that the majority of patient consultations take place in the private sector,' he said. In deciding the target groups, the government took account of medical risk and affordability, he said. 'There is also the mobility issue. Residents of old-age homes will not be mobile enough to go out in the community and get vaccinated,' he said. The flu season is expected to peak between January and March. Choi Kin, president of the Hong Kong Medical Association, said it was appropriate that the government vaccinated those who could not afford to pay. 'For those who can afford the $100, they should be vaccinated in the private sector,' Dr Choi said. He has asked the five flu vaccine suppliers to produce posters to be displayed at doctors' clinics reminding the public to get vaccinated.