Demand for flu vaccine soars in China, prices triple on scalpers' market

By Wan Lin Source: Global Times Published: 2020/10/11 23:35:44


China has seen a soaring demand of the seasonal flu vaccine while hospitals in some cities have reported a limited supply, leaving citizens on waitlists for more than a month to get a shot, while scalpers are reportedly charging triple the original price.

Big cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Wuhan, are under considerable strain as most of hospitals and clinics that provide online vaccine reservation service are posting an "out of stock" status most of the time, according to Yuemiao, a widely-used online reservation platform for flu vaccine. 

Residents who want to make a reservation have to wait until the reservation window opens, which doesn't last long as people swarm to register for a a limited number of shots.

"It's a race," said a resident in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province, surnamed Jiang, who was vaccinated on Saturday after waiting for half a month. "You have to be really fast in making a reservation after you get the notification that the reservation window has opened." 

With soaring, some scalper on the black market are selling the vaccination for doubled or even tripled of the normal price, which ranges from 120 yuan ($17) to 150 yuan for a tetravalent vaccine shot, according to media reports. 

Experts said the increasing demand for a flu vaccination comes from people's rising awareness of the importance to ward off the seasonal flu this winter. 

A patient stricken with both seasonal flu and COVID-19 will have a much more difficult road to recovery, Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Chen Chen, a 27-year-old Beijing resident, who said she made a reservation for the seasonal flu vaccine at five hospitals in the middle of September, and has not heard back from any of them, she said she was feeling  "anxious a lot."  

"I really want to get the shot done as soon as possible. I tend to catch a cold during the winter, and I don't want to face the risk of getting flu when there's a possible revival of the COVID-19 outbreak," she said.

Many cities have been actively taking measures to ease the shortage of the flu vaccine.

Beijing, for example, has increased the number of free vaccines by 21 percent compared with 2019, and the number of paid vaccines purchased was 2.1 times that of last year, said Gao Xiaojun, an official of Beijing Municipal Health Commission, at a press conference on September 30. 

In Hubei Province, the supply of flu vaccine has increased from an average of more than 600,000 doses in the past three years to more than 3 million doses this year, according to Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Hualan Bio, a company that produces flu vaccines said production of the company's trivalent flu vaccine is expected to reach nearly 3 million doses, and the number of quadruple flu vaccine would increase from a planned 16 million to 20 million doses.

Some third-tier cities in China appear not to be facing shortages or perhaps see less demand for the vaccine. A resident in Leshan, Northwest China's Sichuan Province, said she got her shot two hours after registering for one.  

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