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China issues 1st warrant for swine flu vaccination

China has issued its first warrant for mass inoculation with domestic A/H1N1 flu vaccine, the first country in the world to do so, Health Minister Chen Zhu said today.

Chen said the warrant was issued by the State Food and Drug Administration yesterday after the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines had been proved in clinical tests.

The first people to receive the vaccinations will be those attending celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Chen said.

The celebration on Oct. 1 consists of a military parade, a mass pageant and a gala. The pageant alone will involve about 200,000 citizens.

Chen said protection would also be given to vulnerable groups, such as carriers of chronic disease, school students and medical staff.

"We will also consider the differences between regions and start the vaccinations in areas where flu situations are serious," Chen said.

Chen said the vaccination plan had been drafted on the basis of repeated and conscientious work by medical experts, with advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Besides vaccination, other preventive measures, such as education for the public on prevention, would be carried on to keep the epidemic in a "controllable state", Chen said.

"We will improve information channels and formulate prevention plans targeting railway and aviation venues where there is strong human presence and migration," he said.

"We will also improve treatment methods," he said. "Apart from respiratory and anti-virus medicines, we will use traditional Chinese medicine."

Chen said the medical system was prepared to treat patients "ona large scale", especially those showing severe symptoms.

By Monday, all 31 provinces and municipalities on the Chinese mainland had reported A/H1N1 flu cases, bringing the total to 5,592. So far, nearly 70 percent have recovered and no deaths have been reported.

Both the WHO and domestic experts say they believe the A/H1N1 flu epidemic will reach the peak in autumn and winter, Chen said.

He said China's situation was "grim" given the large number of students who started the new semester in September and the National Day celebrations.

In the past week, 95 percent of newly confirmed A/H1N1 flu cases were locals, he said.

Since late-June, China has reported 128 cases of group infections. In some provinces there has been a rising proportion of A/H1N1 flu cases against other flu-linked illnesses.

On Friday, Shanghai reported an A/H1N1 flu patient showing severe symptoms, including respiratory and multi-organ function failures. On Sunday, eastern Zhejiang Province reported another patient in a critical situation with adult respiratory distress syndrome.

The Shanghai patient, though not completely out of danger, has shown signs of improvement, Chen said. The Zhejiang patient is also in a less critical situation.

A meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday vowed to step up the prevention and control of the A/H1N1 flu virus in the run-up to the National Day celebrations.

Schools are currently the key battlegrounds in China's fight against the virus and classes would be suspended "properly" to avoid mass infection when an outbreak occurs, the meeting decided.

China's ability to produce A/H1N1 flu vaccines is still limited compared with its 1.3 billion population, Chen said.

"Therefore, we still need to carry out preventive measures proved effective previously, especially the public's ability to protect itself," he said.


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