Public hospitals and out-patient clinics of the Hospital Authority (HA) will start providing seasonal influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations in two phases to eligible persons commencing this Wednesday (October 25) to dovetail with the Government Vaccination Programme (GVP) for 2017/18.

The HA Deputising Chief Manager (Infection, Emergency and Contingency), Dr Vivien Chuang, said on October 17 at a press briefing that the seasonal influenza vaccination programme this year will be carried out in phases. In the first phase starting on October 25, the HA will provide influenza vaccination to eligible patients of public hospitals and out-patient clinics. The second phase will commence on November 6 to cover community elderly people aged 65 or above.

"We will arrange influenza vaccination for our patients in the first phase in order to enhance their immunity against influenza, reducing their risk of infection during the influenza season, and thus reducing the healthcare service demand in public hospitals during the period," Chuang said.

Regarding the second phase of vaccination for community elderly persons aged 65 or above, Chuang added, "For the convenience of community elderly people aged 65 or above, they can receive vaccination at any General Out-patient Clinic (GOPC) of the HA from November 6.

"Poultry workers, pig farmers and people who are involved in poultry culling operations or the pig-slaughtering industry, as referred by relevant government departments, can also receive seasonal influenza vaccination in 22 designated GOPCs from November 13."

For a more efficient vaccination arrangement, Chuang advised eligible patients with regular follow-up at Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOPCs) or GOPCs to receive vaccination at the time of their pre-scheduled follow-up appointments within the vaccination period. Patients whose follow-up appointment dates fall outside the specified vaccination period should enquire by phone or at the clinics for necessary arrangements.

As in previous years, the HA will start providing seasonal influenza vaccination for hospitalised patients with high-risk conditions, such as inpatients of infirmary, psychogeriatric, mentally-ill and mentally-handicapped units or wards from October 25. In addition, the HA has also been providing flu vaccination for staff on a voluntary basis since October 11.

Regarding the arrangement for pneumococcal vaccination, as recommended by the Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases (SCVPD), the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) will be included in this year's GVP. The SCVPD has also advised eligible elderly people to receive two different doses of pneumococcal vaccine, i.e. 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine and PCV13, to strengthen their immunity for better protection. To tie in, the HA will provide pneumococcal vaccination to eligible elderly persons under the programme.

Hong Kong residents aged 65 or above eligible to receive pneumococcal vaccination include patients with high-risk conditions attending public clinics or in-patients under the HA, or Comprehensive Social Security Allowance (CSSA) recipients or holders of a valid Certificate for Wavier of Medical Charges issued by Social Welfare Department.

Eligible persons who wish to receive seasonal influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations should attend the out-patient clinics while bringing along relevant documents. They will receive vaccinations if assessed as clinically suitable by clinical staff.

"Both the seasonal and pneumococcal vaccines are safe. Protection from seasonal influenza vaccination will develop in about two to four weeks after receiving vaccination and may last at least six months. It is usually well tolerated apart from occasional soreness at the injection site. Some people may have fever, muscle and joint pains and tiredness after vaccination lasting for one to two days. As for the pneumococcal vaccine, protection will be generated in two to three weeks after inoculation," Chuang remarked. MIMS

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