Press Release
10 February 2018

Serious Flu Vaccine Shortage in Private Doctors' Clinics

With influenza surging high, we have schools closed and people in want of vaccines, but vaccines are lacking.

Last month, the healthcare system of Hong Kong bent under the pressure of a depleting influenza vaccine stock. The Department of Health (DH) has in January placed order for a fresh supply of influenza vaccines, which arrived Hong Kong in February. DH requested that private clinics participating in the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (VSS) be given priority to be allotted vaccines. Nevertheless, shortage remains acute and many doctors simply do not get the vaccines for their patients. The Hong Kong Medical Association (HKMA) is receiving enquiries and complaints day after days from doctor-members on matters of vaccine supply.

We learned just now that the two vaccine manufacturers have committed to send Hong Kong another round of supply. GSK's vaccines will arrive next week, to be distributed between the public and private healthcare sectors. The stock volume is undisclosed. Sanofi's 24,000 vaccines, expected to arrive in mid to late March, will be opened for doctors to order. Each doctor may order no more than 10 vaccines.

Today, private doctors basically have no vaccine for their patients. By the time the 24,000 vaccines arrive, each doctor will have 10 vaccines more - far too little and far too late.

In retrospect, the Government has not amid this flu surge demonstrated adequate alertness and efficacy of prospective planning, leading to what we all see as a gross underestimation of the need for flu vaccines. There are people waiting in vain at private doctors' clinic for flu vaccinations, despite pre-orders.

HKMA is most willing to discuss with the Government ahead of time before future flu seasons to work out the target number of vaccines and ordering logistics. We deem it high time for the Government to widen the scope of VSS, so that more people may benefit. With more people immunized, we can expect to see herd immunity emerging. With planned, early vaccinations, crowding of people at public healthcare facilities at flu surge, and thus cross-infection can hopefully be curbed.

Vaccination is the most efficacious and safest method to prevent influenza. On top of vaccination, the public is advised to maintain vigilance with personal hygiene. Simple measures such as hand washing after touching the nose and mouth, wearing a mask while there are flu symptoms and good indoor ventilation go a long way to prevent the spread of germs. It is peak flu season so please avoid crowded places, and this is particularly relevant to children, elderly and the immune-compromised. Please consult your doctor for professional advice on matters related to 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.

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