Health and wellness

More people in Hong Kong getting flu jabs ahead of winter peak season as public awareness grows

  • In first two weeks of government’s vaccination programme, more than 136,000 flu shots administered
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 October, 2018, 3:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 October, 2018, 10:42pm

More people in Hong Kong are getting vaccinated against influenza this year ahead of the winter flu season because of greater public awareness, according to private doctors and health authorities.

In the first two weeks of the government’s vaccination programme, more than 136,000 people got flu shots, up nearly 60 per cent on the same period last year, the Department of Health said, while advising people to get jabs ahead of the winter flu peak season which usually began in January.

Private doctors also observed the same trend, attributing it to greater public awareness of the importance of vaccines against the viral infection. Two said they were told by other doctors that they could not get enough supplies of the vaccine to meet demand.

As of Wednesday, 107,000 doses were given via the HK$210 Vaccination Subsidy Scheme, which began on October 10, an increase of 57.2 per cent on the 2017/18 season, a department spokesman said on Friday. Another 27,300 doses – a 51.4 per cent rise – were administered via the free Government Vaccination Programme, which started on Wednesday.

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Nearly 1,900 primary school children got a free flu jab under a new School Outreach Vaccination pilot programme, which began on Monday.

“Influenza can cause serious illnesses in high-risk individuals and even healthy persons,” the spokesman said.

“Based on past epidemiological patterns, the winter influenza season usually occurs from January to March-April each year. As it takes about two weeks to develop antibodies, members of the public are advised to receive [the vaccine] early for protection against seasonal influenza.”

High-risk groups include children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses.

The government shut down all 1,600 kindergartens, primary schools and special needs schools in Hong Kong days ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in February to stop transmissions of flu.

Hong Kong Doctors Union president Dr Henry Yeung Chiu-fat said: “Every day, I see a lot of patients asking for the flu vaccination. I think people are better educated nowadays. They believe that preventive medicine is better than cure.”

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Former Hong Kong Medical Association president Dr Gabriel Choi Kin said he had heard that a few doctors could not get supplies of the vaccine “but I think most of the doctors who have ordered in advance should have the stock”.

A paediatrician, Dr Alvin Chan Yee-shing, said some doctors were scrambling for supplies.

“The [public awareness] campaign has been successful, people are more health conscious now and the government has advised people to get vaccinated,” he said.

The government procured 752,000 doses of the vaccine for this season.