The Controller of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health (DH), Dr Leung Ting-hung, today (June 22) announced that seasonal influenza vaccination programmes in 2016/17 would cover more population groups in preparation for the winter influenza season.
"The Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases (SCVPD) recommends, on top of existing priority groups, that seasonal influenza vaccination should also be prioritised for children aged 6 to under 12, extended from those aged 6 months to under 6 years, after reviewing local epidemiological data, the latest scientific evidence and overseas experiences. In 2016/17, free or subsidised vaccination for children aged 6 months to under 12 years and all recipients of Disability Allowance (DA), as well as subsidised vaccination for all pregnant women, will be provided for better coverage," Dr Leung said at a briefing.
The eligible groups in 2016/17 are detailed in the attachments while new initiatives are highlighted below.
A. Children aged 6 months to under 12 years
In the last winter season, the influenza-associated admission rate of children aged under 12 in public hospitals has been the highest since 2010. The admission rate among those aged under 6 even reached a level comparable to that in the pandemic in 2009 when influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus emerged. In addition, outbreaks of influenza-like illness were mainly reported in primary schools, followed by kindergartens and child care centres. Vaccinating children can reduce influenza-related complications, hospitalisations and deaths, particularly for school children, which may potentially reduce school absenteeism and influenza transmission in the community.
In 2016/17, all children aged 6 months to under 12 years can receive subsidised vaccination from enrolled private doctors, who can also organise outreach vaccination activities to primary schools. Those from families receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) or holding valid Medical Waiver Certificates can receive free vaccination from the DH's Maternal and Child Health Centres (6 months to under 6 years) or Student Health Service Centres (6 to under 12 years).
B. Pregnant women
The SCVPD has all along accorded top priority to pregnant women for vaccination to reduce acute respiratory infections for mothers and infants, cardiopulmonary complications and associated hospitalisations. The SCVPD strongly recommended that further incentive should be provided.
The CHP will hence expand subsidised vaccination to cover all pregnant women to get vaccinated from enrolled private doctors next year, while those who are CSSA recipients or valid Medical Waiver Certificate holders can continue to receive free vaccination from public clinics and hospitals.
C. Recipients of Disability Allowance
As persons with disabilities may be prone to poor self care and infection, the CHP will expand the vaccination scope to persons with intellectual disabilities (PIDs) and all community-living DA recipients regardless of disability next year. Current clients of public clinics and hospitals can receive free vaccination during their follow-up or stay in hospitals. Other PIDs and DA recipients can receive subsidised vaccination from enrolled private doctors in their clinics.
D. Subsidy level
The Government will also increase the subsidy for all eligible groups including pregnant women, children aged 6 months to under 12 years, PIDs, community-living DA recipients and all elders aged 65 or above, from $160 to $190 per dose of seasonal influenza vaccine in response to the rising cost so that enrolled private doctors may provide vaccination for free or at reduced additional charges.
"We will continue to closely work with the medical profession, sponsoring bodies, principals and representatives of local and international primary schools, parent and women groups, the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, institutions and organisations serving the disabled, the Education Bureau, the Social Welfare Department and the Hospital Authority to prepare for the launch of various vaccination programmes this autumn," Dr Leung said.
Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2016