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Free flu shots for children in China

CHILDREN from 35 months to six years old in China will get H1N1 flu vaccine shots free of charge, according to a notice released by the Ministry of Health yesterday.

The notice said children under three were one of the groups most susceptible to the virus and proposed free inoculation be provided for them.

The inoculation will be carried out on transparent and voluntary basis.

Three vaccine manufacturers, including Sinovac Biotech, have begun clinical trials of H1N1 flu vaccine designed for children in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and Jiangsu and Hunan provinces.

The volunteer who got the first shot showed no signs of severe adverse reactions, the ministry said.

It has required local disease prevention centers across the country to collect and analyze data from the inoculation and carry out safety monitoring and evaluation.

The ministry's weekly report on Wednesday said H1N1 flu cases in the Chinese mainland decreased over the past week.

According to the report, 2,935 cases were confirmed in the mainland from December 28 to January 3. The figure was down from 4,448 the previous week. The number of people who died from H1N1 flu was down from 93 to 67.

As of Tuesday, a total of 51.38 million people had been vaccinated in the mainland.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the Center for Health Protection is investigating whether the H1N1 influenza vaccine contributed to a 58-year-old man falling ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

The man received the inoculation on December 24 and felt weakness in his lower legs for a week before he was admitted to hospital on January 2. He is in a serious, but not life-threatening, condition.

Center controller Thomas Tsang said the center's expert group had not yet found a clear association between the vaccine and the disease - a rare disorder causing paralysis.

Tsang said there were 40 to 60 cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome annually in Hong Kong, showing the disease existed before the vaccination program.

He said the program would continue unless there was a surge in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases.


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