The government yesterday announced it would subsidise flu vaccinations for all children aged between six months and five years, an estimated 320,000 children. Secretary for Food and Heath York Chow Yat-ngok said the age range was decided after considering advice from the scientific community. The government declined to say how much the programme would cost, but each child needs two injections a year and each shot costs HK$30. Legislators welcomed the move, but said the subsidy should be extended to include pneumococcus, the most common cause of bacterial meningitis. Dr Chow said the government intended to work with the private sector to provide vaccines, but the plan was still being discussed. Further arrangements would be announced in October. The administration currently advises parents that children aged six months to 23 months be vaccinated, but free shots are only given to families on welfare, chronically ill patients and elderly people in care homes. The Department of Health says the government spent HK$10 million to buy 300,000 flu vaccines last year. It had given 2,700 dosages to children aged between six months and 23 months from families on welfare. Director of Health Lam Ping-yan said vaccines might have side effects and the government needed to exercise caution when recommending children for vaccines. Children might need to take four injections in a month to guard against the most likely threats, he said. The Child Vaccine Concern Group also said it hoped the government would provide necessary vaccines free of charge.