3 November 2014
The winter influenza peak season is approaching. As an endeavor to prevent outbreak in the community and to minimize serious complications of influenza, the Government has continuously encouraged and subsidized the high-risk groups to receive influenza vaccine. However, the uptake rate remains suboptimal at 14% in last year. This fell short of the 30% threshold required for herd immunity.
The "Influenza Vaccination Subsidy Scheme" has just started in October, there is already shortage of quadrivalent influenza vaccines (QIVs) in the market. Many private doctors reflected that they have difficulties in purchasing for QIVs. The HKMA President Dr. SHIH Tai Cho, Louis, JP, appeals to the public today, "Although QIVs provide an additional protection of 7% against Group B influenza virus, trivalent influenza vaccines (TIVs) are indeed good enough to protect against the major influenza viruses. If there is insufficient supply of QIVs, people should still consider taking TIVs without delay to get well prepared for the winter flu season."
Dr. CHAN Yee Shing, Alvin, the HKMA Vice-President cum Chairman of the HKMA Task Force on Vaccination Public-Private-Interface pointed out that, "There were 40% of the Americans and 60% of the South Koreans got vaccinated for influenza vaccines last year. Taiwan had offered children aged 6 to 12 for free influenza vaccinations last year; and also the pregnant women in this year's influenza vaccination campaign. The number of deaths related to influenza, as a result, decreased from 3,000 to 200. At the same period in Hong Kong, only 10% of the population were vaccinated. In addition, the vaccination rate among the healthcare workers is consistently low in Hong Kong. Only about 30% of the healthcare professionals of the public hospitals were vaccinated of the influenza vaccines. However, the vaccination rates in the United States, Canada and South Korea were over 60%. The HKMA strongly advice all healthcare professionals of both public and private sectors to get influenza vaccinations in order to protect themselves against influenza infection and avoid causing the breakdown of healthcare manpower and transmission of influenza to the patients."
Dr. Alvin CHAN, further added, the HKMA is concerned about health of people of all levels. In addition to providing subsidy for vaccinations for all its staff, HKMA especially arranges this event in Western Pacific Kindergarten today, to offer free influenza vaccinations to a group of ethnic minorities’ children, because ethnic minorities sometimes have no channels to receive proper health information. Hence, they may neglect the importance of safe and effective vaccinations to protect them against infections. In the event today, free influenza vaccinations are also offered to pregnant women and overweight individuals. HKMA would like to educate the public, including ethnic minorities, pregnant women and overweight individuals, to understand the importance of vaccination, in order to boost the uptake rate in Hong Kong. The risk of influenza epidemic outbreak can be greatly reduced by enhancing the overall immunity of the community.
HKMA also call for pharmaceutical companies to ensure sufficient supply of influenza vaccines in the market for all who want to be vaccinated and indirectly reduce the vaccination uptake rate.
Vaccination is the most effective way to protect one from influenza infection and its complications. As serious influenza can occur even in healthy individuals, and it normally takes about 2 weeks after vaccination for the body to develop a sufficient level of antibodies to protect against influenza infection,
the HKMA once again advice all people, especially those fall into the high-risk groups and all healthcare workers of both private/public sectors, to take flu vaccine before the winter flu season and maintain good personal hygiene as a protection of oneself against influenza. The public can consult their family doctors for more information on influenza vaccination.
Notes to editors:
The Hong Kong Medical Association, founded in 1920, aims to bring together Hong Kong's government, institutional, university and private medical practitioners for an effective exchange of views and co-ordination of efforts. The foremost objective of the Association is to safeguard and promote public health. The Association speaks collectively for its members and aims to keep its members abreast of medical ethics, issues and advances around the world. In fulfilling these goals, the association hopes to better serve the people of Hong Kong.