(Yicai Global) Feb. 13 -- The incidence rate of influenza in China is on the down after being prevalent throughout this winter, and experts are calling for more vaccinations.
China’s flu inoculation rate is less than 2 percent, said Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 26 million vaccines make their way onto the market each year, but only about 20 million are used, he added, saying the figures are far too low.
“This winter, flu occurrence was higher than the average over recent years,” Wang Hesheng, vice minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission and director of the Office of State Council Healthcare Reform, said at a press briefing on Feb. 12 for the information office under China’s cabinet.
“However, flu surveillance data shows outbreaks in northern provinces declined in the first three weeks of this year and incidences of flu-like illnesses have dropped to a low level across all provinces,” he added.
The health commission recommended that the elderly, children, pregnant women, the chronically ill, health workers and other groups at risk get flu vaccinations to avoid serious illness or even death.
Free Vaccines Are Too Expensive and Go to Waste
Some provinces are considering the feasibility of offering free flu vaccines to those over 60, but costs and awareness appear to be proving a major hurdle.
“Government procurement costs are very high and there are sustainability risks,” one public health expert said. “At a minimum, it costs about CNY63 (USD10) per shot. Provinces have around 14 million people aged over 60 on average -- that’s CNY900 million (USD142 million) a year, and the figure will increase about 3.5 percent annually in line with China’s aging population.”
Vaccination coverage is no higher in Beijing and Shanghai, where shots can be obtained for free, Liang Xiaofeng, deputy director at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told Yicai Global. A lack of public awareness is the main problem -- people think the flu is the same as the common cold, he added.
There are no plans to include a flu vaccine among national immunization programs. It would be a waste for the state to pay for shots that do not get used, Liang said.