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September 17, 2009

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

High-risk people to get free flu shots

VULNERABLE population groups such as children, the elderly, medical care personnel and people working at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo will receive free vaccinations for both seasonal flu and swine flu, the Shanghai Health Bureau said yesterday.

This will be the first year that seasonal flu shots will be given without charge, the bureau said. The decision was made because both types of the flu will be hitting at around the same time, and a pandemic of either or both during the winter peak season could spill over into the Expo, which starts on May 1.

Seasonal flu shots should be available for the at-risk groups late this month. Details will be announced soon. A schedule for swine flu inoculations has not been developed, as Shanghai's vaccination plan was approved only on Tuesday by the Ministry of Health and the number of doses was still being determined.

Health officials said they will set aside 3.6 million doses of seasonal flu vaccine for Expo-related inoculations. The total for all at-risk groups was not revealed, nor was the cost, which will be borne by the city government.

People over age 60 are likely to receive injections at community hospitals; students will probably get theirs at school, said Song Guofan, a health bureau official.

Expatriates will not be eligible for the free shots, but they can receive protection at joint-venture clinics, which are offering imported vaccines ranging from 150 yuan (US$22) to 200 yuan. Seasonal flu vaccines are available now at Shanghai East International Medical Center, Parkway Health and Global Healthcare.

Expatriate children who attend local schools may be covered by the free vaccination plan, but those details have not been worked out.

Officials from the Shanghai Institute of Biological Sciences, the only local developer of a swine-flu vaccine, said they have reached preliminary agreement with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which is in charge of swine flu vaccine production and storage, after receiving a license for the drug from the State Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.

"The ministry said it will take all our output this year through government purchases," said Wang Menglian, the institute's vice director.

"That means the entire 10 million doses of swine flu vaccines we can produce by the end of the year will be collected by the national government and distributed to the regional governments for free injections."

The Chinese mainland reported 10,221 cases of swine flu as of yesterday, with 6,098 patients recovered. Shanghai cases numbered 574 as of last week. There were no current figures for seasonal flu.


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