Government considering sending private doctors to give flu shots at primary schools

By staff writer
By staff writer |

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This year’s strain of the flu is easier for young children to catch, so it’s important that students can get the vaccine.

The government is considering inviting private doctors to give flu jabs to students at school. This would help expand the childhood flu vaccination subsidy scheme to primary school students.

Fewer children were receiving vaccines due to a “higher service charge”, said the health department, even though young people became more susceptible to the virus during this year’s flu season due to a change in the dominant virus strain from H3N2 to H1N1.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said the government was planning to expand the Childhood Influenza Vaccination Subsidy Scheme as flu season peaked later this year.

Ko said the best way to tackle the matter was to ask private doctors “to provide vaccines to children in schools through the vaccine subsidy scheme”. The health minister, noted, however, that the arrangement still needed to be discussed with schools.

The government wants to send doctors to primary schools, but they think kindergarten students are too young to face the needle alone, and often need their parents with them.

Dr Aaron Lee Fok-kay, a private doctor and council member of the local Medical Association, said there were around 20 to 30 doctors in each city district that could be involved, which was enough.

At present, children aged from six months to under six years old were eligible to receive a subsidy of HK$160 per flu vaccine dose from private doctors enrolled in the scheme.

Ko said the uptake rate for the flu vaccine had increased more than 20 per cent this year, after the government introduced measures to extend the scheme.

Quality Healthcare, a private local medical group, also pledged to provide 5,000 free doses of flu vaccines to people aged 50 or older at seven of its designated clinics.

Meanwhile, the temperature will drop to 12 degrees Celsius as a cold front will reach the coast of Guangdong on Thursday. An upper air disturbance will bring heavy rain and thunderstorms later this week. As the city is expected to be cold during Easter, Ko said it was possible the city could see another spike in flu cases after a recent decline.

“Wards have been adding beds again and again, and now it is even more congested,” said Ko of the strain on local hospitals. “We have enhanced our measures by clearing out spaces in rehabilitation hospitals to receive stable patients from acute hospitals.”

On Saturday, 5,768 people received attention at the city’s accident and emergency wards, said the Hospital Authority, and the overall bed occupancy rate at medical wards remains high at 104 per cent.