Health care workers should be targeted more thoroughly in Hong Kong's vaccination programmes because of their low vaccination rate in previous years, Dr Alvin Chan Yee-shing says. Department of Health figures show the uptake of the vaccine among public sector health care workers dropped from 44,000 in 2009-10 to 24,000 in 2010-11, even though they were included in the free programme. Chan, chairman of the Medical Association's vaccination task force, said that represented only 20 per cent of health professionals - compared to 63 per cent of health care workers who get vaccinated in the United States. He blamed the low rate on safety concerns about the vaccine. 'Two years ago when there was the human swine flu pandemic, a cardiologist developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome after being vaccinated, and as a result some doctors and nurses became fearful the vaccine was dangerous,' he says. 'But the vaccine was unlikely to have caused this case because it occurred too soon after the vaccine - it normally occurs 10 to 14 days after a viral attack. 'It later transpired that the doctor had had an infection around one month before, which could have triggered the syndrome. 'We need to persuade health care personnel to throw away these phobias, get vaccinated and protect themselves and the community.' Dr Ivan Hung Fan-ngai, of the University of Hong Kong, says the main reason many health care workers do not get vaccinated is that they feel flu is not severe and they are healthy enough to fight it off - or from past experience they feel they fared better without it. 'We need to get it across that the vaccine not only protects them but also the patients, because when they are immune, they are not spreading the virus inside the hospital and to their colleagues.'