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LCQ19: Varicella vaccine

     Following is a question by the Hon Alan Leong and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (March 20):


     It has been reported that following revelation in August last year that a mainland hospital had administered fake varicella (commonly known as chickenpox) vaccines to children, and the death of a boy in Hong Kong caused by varicella in November last year, the number of children receiving varicella vaccines in Hong Kong has surged, resulting in stockout of varicella vaccines since the end of last year. All three varicella vaccine suppliers for Hong Kong have indicated that they are not sure when stable supplies can be resumed. In addition, the Government has planned to incorporate varicella vaccines into the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme (CIP) in 2014. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether the Department of Health (DH) had compiled statistics on the respective numbers of persons receiving varicella vaccines in each of the past three years; if it had not, of the reasons for that; if it had, whether the statistics differentiated among children born to women who are Hong Kong permanent residents (HKPRs), children born in Hong Kong to mainland women whose spouses are HKPRs, children born in Hong Kong to mainland women whose spouses are not HKPRs, as well as children from the Mainland;

(b)  whether DH has compiled statistics on the number of children receiving varicella vaccines in the first quarter of this year;

(c)  whether DH has assessed the current situation of shortage of varicella vaccines; if it has, of the assessment outcome; if not, the reasons for that;

(d)  according to the information obtained by DH from its liaison with the varicella vaccine suppliers, of the causes of the current shortage of varicella vaccines and when stable supplies can be resumed;

(e)  whether the Government will consider introducing other suppliers of varicella vaccines in the near future in order to meet the urgent demand for the vaccines;

(f)  of the number of children receiving varicella vaccines each year under CIP as estimated by DH;

(g)  whether DH has assessed if the current suppliers will be able to supply sufficient vaccines after varicella vaccines are incorporated into CIP; and

(h)  whether, in the light of the incident of shortage of varicella vaccines, DH has taken the initiative to monitor if there will be a shortage of supply of other types of vaccines?


(a) and (b) Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine is currently not included in the Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme (CIP). As all vaccinations are administered at private clinics, the Department of Health (DH) does not have the relevant statistics.  In 2009, DH conducted a sample survey of children aged two to five in kindergartens, child care centres and kindergartens-cum-child care centres of Hong Kong.  Survey results indicated that 32.4% of local-born children and 37.0% of Mainland-born children had received varicella vaccine.

(c) and (d) DH has all along maintained close communication with the three suppliers of varicella vaccines.  It was understood that the main reason for the shortage of vaccines was related to the supply schedule of the manufacturers.  According to the latest information provided by some suppliers, more varicella vaccines have arrived in Hong Kong and the shortage situation will be improved.  DH will continue to liaise with the suppliers on the supply of vaccines.

(e)  The purpose of varicella vaccination is for personal protection.  Like other pharmaceutical products, varicella vaccines must be registered under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance (Ordinance) before they can be used in Hong Kong.  Among the five varicella vaccines currently registered in Hong Kong, two are combination vaccines which also provide protection against measles, mumps and rubella, while the remaining three are preventive vaccines for varicella only.  If the suppliers want to introduce other types of varicella vaccines into Hong Kong, they are required to first register the vaccines under the Ordinance.  DH will continue to monitor the actual demand of varicella vaccines in Hong Kong.

(f)  Based on the number of new cases served by the Maternal and Child Health Centres, we estimate that upon the incorporation of varicella vaccine into CIP, about 60 000 to 70 000 infants and young children will receive vaccination from DH each year.

(g)  To ensure an adequate supply of varicella vaccine after its incorporation into CIP, DH will enter into contracts with vaccine suppliers and impose appropriate provisions and requirements.

(h)  DH has established mechanism to regularly monitor the supply and use of vaccines under the CIP in Hong Kong.

Ends/Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:55


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