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CHP urges for immunisation to protect children, family and community (with photo)

     The Controller of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH), Dr Leung Ting-hung, urged members of the public to undertake immunisation to protect children, the family and the community from vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) to echo with World Immunisation Week (WIW) 2015, which starts today (April 24).

     Designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the last week of April, WIW is a global and regional campaign to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against diseases. The theme this year is "Close the immunisation gap" and the WHO Western Pacific Region (WPR) highlights that "Vaccination is everyone's job. Protect your community."

     Chairing a press conference today, Dr Leung said, "Immunisation is important in public health as it significantly reduces disease incidence, disabilities and deaths worldwide. According to the WHO, immunisation prevents about two to three million deaths associated with VPDs such as diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis and measles every year. Locally, immunisation and vaccination schemes are in place to safeguard infants since birth."

     The Hong Kong Childhood Immunisation Programme (HKCIP) launched in the 1950s provides recommended vaccines for newborns until they reach Primary Six against 11 common infectious diseases in infants and children, namely tuberculosis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), poliomyelitis, pneumococcal infection, chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccines are provided at the DH's Maternal and Child Health Centres and via School Immunisation Teams free of charge to eligible local children.

     Citing smallpox and poliomyelitis as examples, Dr Leung said that the use of vaccine had marked significant decline in disease incidence and mortality over the decades.

     "While global eradication of smallpox was reached in 1980 and the WPR eradicated poliomyelitis in 2000, the next goal of the WPR is measles elimination, which is however a challenge to Hong Kong and neighbouring areas in recent years," Dr Leung added.

     Also attending the press conference, the Chairman of the National Committee for the Certification of Wild Poliovirus Eradication in Hong Kong, Professor Lau Yu-lung, said that Hong Kong had been certified polio-free in 2000. The coverage of polio vaccine (primary series and first booster) among children aged from 2 to 5 was over 94 per cent, according to the territory-wide 2012 Immunisation Survey.

     "VPDs can cause severe illnesses and even be fatal. For example, optic neuritis caused by measles can lead to blindness. Pertussis may complicate as subconjunctival haemorrhage. Haemorrhagic chickenpox is a serious complication of chickenpox. Serious cases of diphtheria can cause airway obstruction and breathing difficulty. Immunisation is hence essential in protecting children from VPDs," Professor Lau said.

     Regarding measles, according to the WHO, 201 164 cases were recorded in 2014 while 145 700 measles-related deaths were filed in 2013 globally. In the Mainland, 52 628 cases were recorded in 2014. In Southeast Asia, 53 803 were reported in the Philippines in 2014, 9 394 in Indonesia and 834 in Thailand.

     The United States recorded 668 cases of measles in 2014, a record high since measles elimination in 2000. As of April 17, 2015, 162 cases were filed this year, most of which were associated with an outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

     "Locally, measles incidence has markedly declined since the introduction of vaccine in 1967. However, as an international city with large volume of incoming travellers daily, Hong Kong faces a major challenge in the control of measles, both in importation of cases and possible local spread among pockets of unimmunised individuals," said the Consultant Community Medicine (Communicable Disease) of the CHP, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan.

     Dr Chuang pointed out that the number of cases of measles had increased to 38 and 50 in 2013 and 2014 respectively from 11, 12 and eight in 2010, 2011 and 2012. As of April 19, 2015, four were recorded this year.

     Of these 123 cases from 2010 to 2015 so far, 61 were children aged under 5, of which 57 per cent were born in Hong Kong and 31 per cent were born or lived in the Mainland. Among the 54 adult cases aged 20 or above reported in the same period, 35 per cent were locals and the remaining 65 per cent were born outside Hong Kong including seven foreign domestic helpers (FDHs).

     Analysing their vaccination history, of note, among the children, 30 per cent were infants aged under one who were yet due for vaccination, while among the adults, 33 per cent had unknown vaccination status.

     "We noted concerns and reports of adverse effects of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in recent years both overseas and locally, but the WHO has repeatedly refuted and stressed that ongoing scientific evidence shows no links between the vaccine and autism," Dr Chuang remarked.

     The CHP urged parents, travellers and other members of the public for immunisation to protect their children, family and the community at large from measles. They should take heed of measures below:

* Children should receive one dose of MMR vaccine each at one year old and Primary One respectively. Immunisation records should be well kept;
* Children aged under one frequently travelling to or staying in the Mainland should follow the Mainland's schedule of immunisation with first dose of measles containing vaccine (MCV1) at 8 months old, followed by another dose at 18 months. Another dose will be given when they enter Primary One in Hong Kong;
* Adults never infected with measles or never been vaccinated should receive MMR vaccine for personal protection and preventing household outbreaks;
* Employment agencies and employers should arrange MMR vaccination for FDHs never infected with measles or never been vaccinated during pre-employment medical checkup; and
* Travellers should stay alert to the risk of measles and other VPDs in endemic areas before departing.

     Letters to doctors will be issued to engage their support in measles elimination. They are reminded to advise children aged under one frequently travelling to the Mainland for measles vaccination, and to consider vaccination for adults never infected with measles or never been vaccinated, particularly those born outside Hong Kong.

     The CHP is maintaining close liaison with the Immigration Department (ImmD) in enhancing measles-related health information to FDHs and their employers. Letters to employment agencies through Consulate Generals of importing countries of FDHs have also been issued to encourage the domestic helpers to receive measles vaccination.

     More information is available in pages below:

* The WHO's page on WIW 2015 (;
* The WHO WPR's page on WIW 2015 (;
* The DH's HKCIP page (;
* The CHP's measles page in English and other languages (;
* The WHO's page refuting MMR vaccine and autism (;
* The CHP's letter to doctors (; and
* The CHP's letter to employment agencies and employers in the ImmD's FDHs page (

Ends/Friday, April 24, 2015
Issued at HKT 18:06


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