Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee has sought to allay fears about a shortage of vaccines as measles cases in the city continue to climb.
There have been 30 confirmed cases so far this year, a multi-year high, with many of them involving workers at the Hong Kong International Airport.
People who go to private clinics to get their measles jabs now have to pay far more than usual, with the price of each shot having soared to between HK$1,800 and HK$2,500 in some cases, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Chan told reporters on Wednesday that aside from the 31,000 measles vaccines supplied to hospitals and private clinics last week, pharmaceutical firms will deliver 40,000 more starting next month.
However, the amount may not be enough to meet the demand since there are more than 70,000 workers at the airport alone.
Since last week, the government has been offering free measles jabs at the airport, which is considered a hot spot of the current outbreak. But there are always long queues at the vaccination stations because only several hundreds of people can be served each day.
Chan said her bureau is discussing with the Airport Authority whether more vaccination stations can be set up at the airport. The authority is also commissioning private clinics to offer vaccination services to its employees.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said five more people were confirmed to have contracted measles in the city, taking the total number to 30 this year.
Among them, three worked at the airport, including a 31-year-old male MTR employee, a 21-year-old woman working at McCafe at Terminal 1, and a 28-year-old customs official. The other two were a 43-year-old man and an eight-month-old baby boy.
All of them are in stable condition. But one female patient told her doctors that she had had two measles jabs, which should have been enough to make her immune to the virus.
Dr. Owen Tsang Tak-yin, medical director of the Infectious Disease Center at Princess Margaret Hospital, said a vaccine cannot give 100 percent protection, adding that about 3 percent of those who have had two measles shots can still be infected.
Meanwhile, a CHP analysis of the confirmed cases showed that the Philippines may have been one of the sources of measles infection at the airport.
There are currently about 200,000 Filipino domestic helpers in the city. Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiology professor at the University of Hong Kong, suggested that those who have just returned from the Philippines – especially those who take care of children – should get vaccinated.
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