As China grapples with a fresh vaccine scandal, there are concerns in Hong Kong about a potential influx of mainlanders for safe vaccinations, a situation that could lead to shortage of medicines for locals.
Worries that people from across the border will bring their kids to Hong Kong for vaccinations have grown after some online forums in the mainland circulated lists of Hong Kong doctors offering vaccination services, the Hong Kong Economic Journal noted.
If mainland parents queue up here seeking jabs for their children, they could snap local supplies, causing shortages for Hong Kong residents, people fear.
Vaccines have become a major talking point after news surfaced in recent days that Chinese regulators have deemed that some DTaP vaccines produced by a major mainland maker, Changsheng Biotechnology, were substandard.
Previously, another manufacturer — Wuhan Institute of Biological Products — had been mired in a similar scandal.
As China is gripped by a fresh health scare, Hongkongers fear a rush on local medical facilities by mainland parents and their kids.
A pediatrician named Lau Shing-chi, who practices in Shatin Union Hospital and also serves in clinics in Shatin and Tsim Sha Tsui, told a reporter that there has been a 10-20 percent rise in the number of mainland parents making enquiries about vaccinations.
Even though the bookings have not risen yet, Lau has alerted a pharmaceutical company about a possible need for stepped-up vaccine supply, according to HKEJ.
Around 40 percent of his vaccination patients are mainland Chinese, with some traveling from far-off places like Shanghai and Northeast China, Lau said.
Chiu Cheung-shing, a pediatrician in Yau Tsim Mong, also confirmed a rise in enquiries from Chinese parents.
The enquiries were in relation to several vaccines, as the mainlanders fear that it is not just the Chinese three-in-one diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccines that are problematic.
Chiu, however, thinks the panic will only be temporary and that it will fade in a short time.
The Hong Kong health department, meanwhile, assured that it has secured sufficient supply of vaccines for both private and public medical service, through two suppliers.
Chiu pointed out that the DTaP vaccines are not so indispensable that there is risk of an immediate danger even if the children do not take the vaccinations on time.
It is also unnecessary for local parents to panic because the Maternal and Child Health Care Centres provide basic four-in-one jabs –Diphtheria, Tetanus, acellular Pertussis & Inactivated Poliovirus (DTaP-IPV) for children, Chiu added.
China’s previous vaccine scandal, in 2016, flooded Hong Kong’s medical system with anxious people from across the border seeking vaccinations for their children.