Flu Vaccinations in Hong Kong: Don’t let down your guard
Living in a city with a population density as extreme as Hong Kong’s, contagion should be a concern that is on everyone’s mind. It is inescapable that we all come into contact with so many people every day, and even if we aren’t shaking hands with every person we walk by on the street, we are still sharing air with many other people on a regular basis. Whether it’s on public transportation during our morning commute, in the office, at a restaurant for lunch, or in the pub/club late night, we are consistently exposed to possibly harmful pathogens. All that we can do is hope that sick individuals will make it a point to stay home, or at least put a mask on to prevent the spread of infection.
However, this is not always the case. Diseases will spread through the carelessness of others, and it is oftentimes the weakest among us that have to face the consequences of this (i.e. children, the sick and the elderly). Just last week, on Tuesday, March 1st, a six-year-old boy tragically died as a result of influenza infection. Although this is the first child flu fatality of the year, 11 adults have also died as a result of the disease, and it is still an example of the importance of vaccinations. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the current state of flu vaccination in Hong Kong.
Is Hong Kong prepared?
There is another cold spell coming soon, which will once again lead to temperatures as low as 10 degrees. In fact, after already experiencing some of the coldest weather on record in Hong Kong this past winter, we are set to be battered by a second ‘polar vortex’ on Thursday of this week (March 10th) according to the Hong Kong Observatory. This begs the question, “Are we ready?” Perhaps not, because, as reported by the South China Morning Post, the number of children who have received a flu vaccination this year is down by 25% over the previous year. (It should be noted here that the 6-year-old boy that died of the flu last week had NOT been vaccinated. Also, although the number of children vaccinated has lowered this year, overall vaccinations are up by 14%) As a result of this figure, pediatric wards in Hong Kong are being put to the test, as they are being bombarded with flu patients, but why are fewer children being vaccinated even with known dangers like the H1N1 virus being a dominant flu strain this year?
The belief cited by the Hong Kong Department of Health is that the drop can largely be attributed to a focus on vaccinating the elderly, as well as an increase in cost for flu vaccination for children. Following the reception of an ineffective flu vaccine last year that led to over 500 people dying of the flu, parents are now opting for more effective vaccines. However, these improved vaccines are four times the cost of others. Additionally, due to additional lab work needing to be performed, immunizing children via vaccine is already more costly than administering vaccines to adults or even the elderly.
Regarding the school kids in Hong Kong, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has already asked schools in the city to do a better job of promoting vaccination to faculty, students and parents alike. On top of this, the CHP has advised schools to check student temperatures daily to find ill students who are not staying home. Likewise, faculty members are to check their temperatures daily as well. Anyone found to have a fever is advised to stay away from school for at least 48 hours
Other recommendations made include:
- Eating a healthy diet to keep the immune system nourished
- Regular exercise
- Avoid stress and smoking
- Try not to go to poorly ventilated or overly crowded areas. If you must, wear a mask
- Keep your home and workspace well ventilated
- If symptoms develop, wear a mask to prevent spread to others
- Dispose of used masks and tissues appropriately
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly
- Cover your face when coughing or sneezing
- Have and use hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol content
As a reminder, the CHP also recommends that the following high-risk people make sure they receive flu vaccine each year:
- Children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years
- Health care professionals
- People with chronic medical conditions
- People over 50 years of age
- Elderly citizens living in assisted living facilities
- Women who are pregnant
- Long-stay residents of facilities for disabled people
- Pig farmers and pig-slaughtering facility workers
- Poultry workers
Of course, whether it’s H1N1, H3N2, Influenza B, or any other strain of the flu, once you have the illness, you will want to have quick access to high-quality medical care as soon as symptoms worsen. For this reason, you will likely want to have a comprehensive health insurance plan for you and your family that will allow access to private hospitals in Hong Kong and provide benefits for vaccinations of all types. If you need to obtain such a medical insurance policy, the experts at Pacific Prime can help! Feel free to contact them today, and they can provide you with plan comparisons and price quotes for policies from top insurance companies in Hong Kong.