Hong Kong DoH Announces Recommendations On Influenza Vaccination

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The Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases (SCVPD) under the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Hong Kong Department Of Health released its recommendations for the coming 2008/09 influenza season, recommending nine categories of people to receive vaccination against influenza.

Apart from the target groups recommended last year, a CHP spokesman said the committee had expanded the recommendation to children aged from two to five years owing to their higher hospitalisation rate compared with the general population.

The nine recommended target groups for the coming influenza season are:

1) elderly persons living in residential care homes;

2) long-stay residents of institutions for the disabled;

3) elderly persons aged 65 years or above;

4) persons with chronic illnesses;

5) health care workers;

6) poultry workers;

7) children aged from six to 23 months;

8) pregnant women; and

9) children aged from two to five years.

Persons with chronic illness mainly refer to those who have chronic circulatory, lung, metabolic or renal diseases, those whose immune response are reduced or defective, and those with chronic neurological disorders 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.

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 Government is now studying the new SCVPD recommendations and is considering how best to encourage children aged from six months to five years to be vaccinated against influenza.

Concerning other target groups which were the same as last year's, the Government Influenza Vaccination Programme (GIVP) will continue to provide free vaccination to the following eligible groups for the 2008/09 flu season:

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1) elderly persons living in residential care homes;

2) long-stay residents of institutions for the disabled;

3) 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);

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

5) 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;

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

7) children aged from six to 23 months from families receiving CSSA; and

8) pregnant women receiving CSSA.

"The infrastructure under the GIVP will continue to provide free vaccination services to the eligible target groups through hospitals and clinics under the DH and HA. Details of the GIVP will be announced this summer," the CHP spokesman said.

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

"The success of influenza vaccination requires collaboration between the public and private sectors," the spokesman said.

"In this regard, CHP will send letters to doctors to promulgate the recommendations, so that they can make estimations to order vaccines early to avoid vaccine shortage problems."

To prevent influenza and other respiratory tract infections, the spokesman advised members of the public to adopt a healthy lifestyle as well as adhere to good personal and environmental hygiene. They should observe the following measures:

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

* maintain good personal hygiene, and wash hands after sneezing, coughing or cleaning the nose;

* maintain good ventilation;

* avoid visiting crowded places with poor ventilation; and

* wear a mask if having symptoms of respiratory infection.

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