Hong Kong Influenza Vaccination Program Starts

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The Hong Kong Government Influenza Vaccination Programme (GIVP) for 2008/09, which provides free vaccines to some of the target groups considered high risk, will start on November 3 this year.

Developed on the basis of the recommendations of the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases (SCVPD) established under the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH), a spokesman for CHP said the programme would provide free influenza vaccination to the following target groups:

* elderly persons living in residential care homes;

* long-stay residents of institutions for the disabled;

* elderly persons aged 65 years or above with chronic illness and being followed up in public clinics, as well as those aged 65 years or above receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA);

* persons under 65 years with chronic illness receiving CSSA, and some long-stay Hospital Authority (HA) in-patients who have chronic illness;

* health care workers of the DH, HA and other government departments, as well as health care workers in elderly homes or institutions for the disabled;

* poultry workers or staff who may be involved in poultry culling operations;

* children between the age of 6 months and less than 6 years from families receiving CSSA; and

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* pregnant women receiving CSSA.

People with chronic illness mainly refer to those who have chronic cardiovascular (except hypertension without complication), pulmonary, metabolic or renal disease, who are immunocompromised, children and adolescents (aged 6 months to 18 years) on long-term aspirin therapy, and those with chronic neurological condition that can compromise respiratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions or that can increase the risk for aspiration or those who lack the ability to care for themselves for their increased risk of complications and death associated with influenza infection.

The SCVPD recommended vaccines to be used in the 2008/09 season (northern hemisphere winter) would comprise A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like virus, A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus and B/Florida/4/2006-like virus.

The spokesman said a total of 300 000 doses of vaccine had been ordered for the coming GIVP which would last until 31 March 2009.

Members of the public not included in SCVPD's recommendations who wish to obtain influenza vaccine for their personal protection are advised to consult their private doctors, he said.

To prevent influenza and other respiratory tract infections, the spokesman urged the public to adopt a healthy lifestyle and adhere to the following health advice:

* To build up good body immunity by having a proper diet, regular exercise and adequate rest, reducing stress and avoiding smoking;

* To maintain good personal hygiene, and wash hands after sneezing, coughing and wear a mask when developing symptoms of respiratory infections;

* To maintain good ventilation; and

* To avoid visiting crowded places with poor ventilation, especially during peak flu season.

Members of the public may call upon the DH health education (pre-recorded) hotline at 2833 0111 for vaccination information. In addition, a telephone hotline 2575 2789 is set up to answer enquiries on the GIVP during office hours.

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