Hong Kong clinics face vaccine shortage as mainlanders clamor for immunizations

By Fan Lingzhi Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/29 20:23:39

Industry insiders say blind pursuit brings risks

A nurse vaccinates a child at a clinic in Jiujiang, East China's Jiangxi Province, on July 24. Photo: VCG

Mainland consumers are flocking to Hong Kong to obtain vaccinations for children at a time when news is spreading about substandard vaccines in the mainland.

But a Hong Kong-based doctor told the Global Times that mainland consumers should not blindly pursue Hong Kong vaccines, but should adequately assess the situation to reduce potential risks.

An anonymous vaccination agent in Hong Kong said that a whole set of children's vaccinations, consisting of 16 injections in total, costs about HK$ 19,870 ($2,531). "A child can get all vaccinations he needs before primary school by two years old in eight visits with two injections each," the agent said when consulted by the Global Times on Thursday.

The agent also noted that the vaccines are likely to become low in supply as recently many mainland consumers have come to Hong Kong for the injections.

Qiu Jian, a doctor whose clinic is located in Kowloon, also told the Global Times on Saturday that his clinic has recently gotten more and more vaccination inquiries from mainland consumers.

"Recently, the number of mainland tourists calling me directly to inquire about  vaccinations has surged to about 20 people each day compared with only about 1-2 people daily in the past, not to mention the inquiry calls to the nurses (at my clinic)," Qiu said.

The rise of mainland consumers' interest in getting vaccinated in Hong Kong has been kindled by worries about the quality of vaccines available in the mainland, particularly as Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences was recently exposed for illegal production of rabies and DPT vaccines.

Qiu noted that mainland customers travel to Hong Kong to receive vaccinations largely because of their trust in the quality of Hong Kong injections.

According to Qiu, in Hong Kong vaccines are stored in special refrigerators that not only have strict temperature monitoring, but also have back-up power so that the vaccines can be kept at a steady temperature even during a power cut.

Vaccine shortage

Ben Chan Han-pan, a member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council, said that as far as he knows many popular vaccines are facing shortages in private medical institutions in Hong Kong.

"For example, hepatitis B vaccines are running short these days in many private clinics," he said.

But he stressed to the Global Times that the situation has not necessarily been caused by mainland consumers' pursuit of Hong Kong vaccines.

"Whether Hong Kong is running short of vaccines is mainly decided by whether pharmaceutical manufacturers can stably supply such products. Some companies may be able to get a better price or better cooperation in other regions, so they cut supply to Hong Kong," he said.

Qiu also said that his clinic is running short of quadruple vaccines, and there is only a limited supply of nine-valent HPV vaccine left at his clinic, which is also highly sought after by mainland consumers.

But Qiu said that he is indeed troubled by the fact that many mainland consumers are blindly pursuing Hong Kong vaccines.

"Some of them even said they want to get 'all' Hong Kong vaccines," Qiu said. "This kind of blindness might bring about trouble."

Ben Chan Han-pan said that consumers need to watch out for medical agents.

"Agents don't have vaccines, and therefore even though consumers pay them, there's no guarantee that they can get vaccinated," he said.

Qiu said that he understands mainland consumers' worries about vaccine quality (in the mainland), but he emphasized that they should keep confidence in mainland vaccines. "It's a good thing for problems to be exposed. I believe management will be better in the future," he said.

Newspaper headline: Mainland consumers chase Hong Kong vaccines

Posted in: ECONOMY

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