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October 30, 2009

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Get a shot, top researcher says

CHINA'S top epidemiologist yesterday urged people to accept inoculations against swine flu while reassuring the public about vaccine safety.

"If people are not vaccinated now, there will be endless trouble in the future," said Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"With the number of patients suffering severe symptoms growing, China's medical treatment capacity including equipment and personnel will face huge challenges. We need to prepare in advance," Zeng said.

He said that China's swine flu outbreak is expected to peak between winter and spring.

An estimated 400,000 people in China have been inoculated against the H1N1 flu vaccine, and no serious adverse reactions were reported.

"No vaccine is totally risk free," Zeng said. "But the benefits of this vaccine are much greater than its risks."

So far the side effects of the vaccine have been mostly slight, such as temporary fever and exhaustion.

Zeng said many of the technologies China used in producing swine flu vaccines are the same as those used for producing regular flu vaccine.

"They are mature technologies," he added.

Based on clinical studies, at least 85 percent of the people getting the vaccine would receive protection from the virus that would last into the spring, according to the Ministry of Health.

But a recent survey by Internet portal showed that more than 54 percent of the 2,000 respondents said they would not be vaccinated because of safety concerns.

On Wednesday, China's State Council said the country faces "severe challenges" in the prevention and control of swine flu after some areas reported a sharp increase in the number of patients infected with the virus.

Efforts should be made to prevent and control swine flu in schools and avoid assemblies in educational facilities, the Chinese Cabinet said.

The State Council also urged intensified efforts to promote public awareness of the disease.

As of Wednesday, the Ministry of Health had reported 42,009 swine flu cases and four deaths since the disease first turned up on the Chinese mainland.


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