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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Free flu jab for 184 Hong Kong primary schools to start from October 22 under new scheme

Medical teams will conduct school-based vaccinations as city officials work to reduce likelihood of outbreaks when winter comes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2018, 9:55pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 August, 2018, 1:07am

From October 22, medical teams will visit 184 Hong Kong primary schools to administer free flu jabs under a new government scheme to ensure children are vaccinated against an illness that can strike them hard during the winter months.

About 130,000 pupils attend the schools, and the Centre for Health Protection’s controller Dr Wong Ka-hing said he hoped more than half the students would be vaccinated under the pilot programme.

The centre announced on Friday that 184 institutions were selected from 330 primary schools that applied to be part of the newly launched School Outreach Vaccination Pilot Programme. There are more than 500 local, private and international primary schools in the city.

Dr Liza To May-kei, head of the centre’s programme management and professional development branch, explained that schools with a greater number of pupils were chosen for the pilot scheme.

“We believe this is in the interest of public health, as our aim is for more children to benefit through flu vaccination,” To said.

Under the pilot scheme, flu jabs at 149 participating schools will be administered by 36 private doctors recruited to join the scheme’s public-private-partnership outreach team. Health Department staff will visit the remaining 35 schools.

We believe this is in the interest of public health
Dr Liza To May-kei, Centre for Health Protection

Local primary schools that did not get into the scheme, as well as kindergartens and childcare centres, can still get free flu jabs for their pupils, but they will need to make their own arrangements.

Such institutions can approach about 90 private doctors who will not charge them anything as they will directly receive HK$250 (US$32) for each flu jab administered and HK$800 to dispose of clinical waste after a vaccination session at a school. These vaccinations will begin on October 10.

The centre said it believed the number of doctors was sufficient to meet schools’ needs.

Chow Kim-ho, principal of Tsuen Wan Trade Association Primary School, which was not chosen for the pilot scheme, asked: “Can the centre help assign the 90 participating doctors to the schools? This will save us administrative work.”

Hong Kong’s efforts at ensuring children are protected against the flu follow a particularly tough winter earlier this year when multiple outbreaks hit local kindergartens and primary schools.

The outbreaks prompted the government to close schools earlier than usual for the Lunar New Year holiday so as to reduce the chances of germs spreading.

The government said on Friday it had also increased its supply of flu vaccine, procuring 752,000 doses, up from 503,000 last year. These will be administered at public clinics and to primary schools in the pilot scheme.

It will also increase its subsidy for several groups to get flu vaccinations at private clinics, from HK$190 to HK$210. This will apply to children who are between six months and 12 years old, people aged 50 and above, disabled people and pregnant women.

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Dr Chow Chun-bong, chairman of the centre’s scientific committee on vaccine preventable diseases, said there was now revised criteria for schools in terms of when to cancel classes in light of a flu outbreak. They may be able to do so if at least 20 per cent of pupils show signs of the illness.