HK watching vaccine stocks amid demand from China

HONG KONG • Hong Kong is keeping an eye on its vaccine stocks amid concerns that a surge in demand from Chinese parents seeking safer alternatives could drain the city's own supplies, reported South China Morning Post.

A scandal over illegal vaccines has again shattered the confidence of Chinese in the mainland's healthcare services.

Last week, Chinese media reported a crackdown by the local authorities on the black-market sale of vaccines which were said to be worth 570 million yuan (S$120 million) and have been sold in more than 20 provinces and cities across China.

With mainland patients driving up demand in the city, Hong Kong's health chief said vaccination services for non-local children could be suspended if such demand led to a shortage of supplies for locals.

Although there has not been any indication that the city would reach such a stage, the government would still keep an eye on vaccine stocks and could order more if needed to ensure adequate supplies for local children, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said on Sunday.

Official statistics showed that from the beginning of January to last Tuesday, local public health care facilities served 1,129 non-local children, up by 27 per cent from 889 for the same period last year.

"The Department of Health has a mechanism to ensure there would be sufficient vaccines for local children," said Dr Ko.

"There is a cap for non-local children getting services (at public maternal and child health centres). But figures in the recent one or two years showed the proportion of non-locals was very small."

Figures from the Department of Health showed 4,008 non-locals sought consultation at child health centres last year, up from 3,263 in 2014.

The numbers made up 0.65 per cent and 0.53 per cent of all the cases in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

A spokesman said the department adopted a "local children first" policy and those who were not eligible could try their luck booking into the public family health service.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'HK watching vaccine stocks amid demand from China'. Print Edition | Subscribe