'No need to rush for flu shots'

Local | Mandy Zheng 22 Oct 2020

People are being told not to rush for a free flu jab as a scheme starts today. For the Hospital Authority has more doses of vaccine ready than last year.

The message came as Hong Kong recorded eight new Covid-19 cases yesterday. But only one was a local case - a 66-year-old resident of Kwai Chung's Home of Treasure.

The other seven involve arrivals from the Philippines, India, the United States, Ethiopia and Belgium, taking the total case tally of coronavirus infections to 5,269, with 105 deaths.

On the flu vaccine, Hospital Authority chief infection control officer Raymond Lai Wai-man said 480,000 doses - 20,000 more than last year - are prepared.

The two-phase program will first serve the elderly, children and people with disabilities visiting public clinics and public hospitals' outpatient departments. Then, from November 11, all citizens above 65 can get shots.

Doctors can advise on eligibility or the scheme, but no application in advance is needed for now, Lai said. Appointments will only be required for the second batch.

So "there's no need to rush to make appointments," Lai added, noting the flu season usually peaks in January and February.

But he urged people in high-risk groups to get jabs as those infected with both Covid-19 and seasonal flu have more severe symptoms.

Also, Lai said, most Hongkongers might not have antibodies as there was a decrease in flu patient numbers last winter due to mask-wearing and other efforts against Covid-19.

He also warned that health facilities, burdened by the coronavirus, could collapse under a need to take in a large number of flu patients as well, which would also mean a higher risk of cross-infection.

On a related topic, David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory expert at the Chinese University, said the restart of local tours from tomorrow carries risk.

All tour members would need to be quarantined if one contracted Covid-19, he noted.

And requiring a group capped at 30 people to be tested for the virus before setting off is only a "symbolic" gesture, Hui said, as they could be infected later.

He suggested people split into smaller groups and have fixed seats on a bus to help contact tracing.

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