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November 20, 2009

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China gives 1.5m HINI shots a day

CHINA'S health minister said the country is vaccinating 1.5 million people a day against swine flu, part of a mammoth effort to reach nearly 7 percent of inhabitants of the world's most populous nation by year's end.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday during the Havana meeting of the Global Forum for Health Research, Chen Zhu said that more than 15 million people on Chinese mainland had been immunized so far.

Chen said officials have moved past containing swine flu and are focusing now on improving emergency room treatment to keep those with the most urgent cases of the virus from dying.

He said China developed its swine flu vaccine in late August and plans to give it to 1.5 million Chinese a day in November and December, in hopes that 80 million to 90 million will have been vaccinated by the end of 2009. That would be nearly 7 percent of the population, and officials hope to vaccinate an additional 3 percent in January and February.

"We know this is not enough for a population of 1.3 billion, but at least for the vulnerable people, for the students, people with underlying basic diseases and, in the future, for pregnant women, we have vaccines," Chen said.

He added that vaccinating medical personnel is also a top priority.

Tom Skinner, spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, said that by comparison, the United States has allocated 49 million swine flu vaccine doses since late September.

He said American manufacturers are capable of producing well over 1 million vaccines a day, and China's factories and health officials could do better than that amid a major vaccination campaign.

"One and a half million; that's a lot of people," he said. "It goes to show you what can be done when you have resources and people mobilized as well as people coming forward to get vaccinated."

Chen said China has no plans to export its vaccine -- at least for now.

"We are in a shortage of the vaccine in China. In the short term, no exports," he said.

"We will see if next year there is a possibility to export a little bit, but to get the pandemic under control in China should be the most important contribution for its control worldwide," he added.


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