Appointments in Hong Kong Health Centres Surge After China’s Vaccine Panic

Monthly vaccine quota set for non-local children
By Sherry Lin, Epoch Times
April 5, 2016 Updated: April 5, 2016

HONG KONG—After China’s harmful vaccine incident was revealed to the public, an Internet post on “full instructions for bringing children to Hong Kong for vaccination” was widely spread online.

The post teaches mainland Chinese people how to get their children vaccinated in Hong Kong’s Mother and Children Health Centres (MCHCs) and private clinics. This has worried local mothers.

Considering the rapid increase of recent appointments for vaccination, the Health Department announced that local children have priority service in MCHCs starting on April 1, and the appointment quota for non-local children will be restricted to 120 per month.

China’s vaccine incident affected Hong Kong and Macau. Teresa Li Mun-pik, Assistant Director of the Health Department (Family and Elderly Health Services), said that the number of appointments for vaccination surged recently; normally only a few are received each day.

On March 24, more than 80 related phone calls were received in one day. On March 29, the number increased to about 120. Therefore, they decided to implement a quota system.

Ineligible service may stop

Li explained that the initial monthly quota of 120 new appointments means each MCHC has a quota of 2 to 7.

“We will have a triage system for new disease appointments to recognize if they are ineligible. If so, the quota system will be implemented. We will also closely monitor the implementation of the system and will adjust the quota if necessary, going so far as to stop the relevant services for those ineligible children,” she added.

She said 12 MCHCs in Fanling and Kowloon City were all fully booked in March. The trial of the 120 quota system started on March 24, and it was fully implemented on April 1.

Li said the Department has always taken local children’s vaccination as a priority.

The Health Department said that except for appointments, the number of non-local babies coming to MCHCs for vaccination had no significant increase.

Linda Woo, Assistant Director of the Health Department (Drugs), said, “The Department has been closely monitoring vaccine usage. If necessary, we will purchase an extra amount of vaccines from suppliers according to the terms of the contract, to ensure a stable and adequate supply.”

She further explained, “At present, the public health care system doesn’t have a vaccine shortage.”

The Department will also keep close contact with professional medical bodies and vaccine suppliers to monitor the vaccination services and supplies of the private health care system.

The Department of Health announced that as of March 29, MCHCs recorded a total of 47,508 child health services in March, 46,450 in February, and 49,549 in January. Among them, the number of ineligible cases were 389 (0.82 percent), 382 (0.82 percent), and 398 (0.80 percent), respectively.

However, the Department stated that the ineligible number includes all non-local children, and child health services are not necessarily vaccination.

Civic Party Councilor Kwok Ka-ki welcomed the measures. He thinks that the measures respond to the concerns of parents in Hong Kong, and he suggested that the Health Department make the 120 quota a long-term measure.

He also suggested that the government should encourage local biotech companies to consider vaccine development and production for the longer-term.

Translated by Libei. Edited by Sally Appert