Go to main content
LCQ7: Vaccination against seasonal influenza
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Kin-por and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (July 7):
     The Centre for Health Protection has pointed out that the two viruses which respectively cause the Coronavirus Disease 2019 and seasonal influenza (influenza) may spread concurrently in the coming winter influenza season. As members of the public infected with both viruses are likely to suffer clinical conditions which are more serious than those infected with influenza virus alone, thus exerting greater pressure on the healthcare system, vaccination against influenza is of paramount importance. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the respective numbers of persons with influenza symptoms who sought medical attention from the public and private healthcare systems in each of the past three financial years and, among them, the number of those who were confirmed to have been infected with influenza; and
(2) of the measures in place to further encourage members of the public to receive vaccination against influenza?
     Influenza can cause serious illnesses in high-risk individuals and even healthy persons. Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent seasonal influenza (SI) and its complications. It also reduces the risks of flu-induced in-patient admission and mortality. Given that influenza vaccines are safe and effective, all persons aged six months or above, except those with known contraindications, are recommended to receive influenza vaccination for personal protection. 
     In consultation with the Department of Health (DH) and the Hospital Authority (HA), my reply to the two parts of the question raised by the Hon Chan Kin-por is as follows:
(1) DH and HA do not maintain the number of patients seeking medical attention due to symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI). The numbers of admissions with principal diagnosis of influenza among hospitalised patients in the HA in the past three years are set out in the table below - 
Year Number of admissions with
principal diagnosis of influenza
2018 11 464
2019 11 923
2020 2 930
Note: The annual variation in the number of admissions with principal diagnosis of influenza may be related to multiple factors, for example, the predominance of different circulating strains of influenza viruses (different virus strains may affect different age groups), and the effectiveness of the SI vaccines.
     The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) closely monitors the activity of influenza in the community through sentinel surveillance system. The lowest and highest weekly average consultation rates for ILI reported by sentinel clinics of private medical practitioners between 2018 and 2020 are as below-
Year Weekly average rates (per 1 000 consultations)
2018 17.3 – 76.8
2019 16.2 – 61.5
2020 9.1 – 39.0
(2) The Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases (SCVPD) under the CHP of the DH has been monitoring the local SI activity and the latest recommendations on the virus composition of SI vaccine by the World Health Organization. The SCVPD has also issued in May 2021 the recommendations on local influenza vaccination for the 2021/22 season through a press release. SI activity in Hong Kong remained at a low level after the end of the 2019/20 winter influenza season in mid-February 2020. The SCVPD also noted that there is increasing evidence suggesting that co-infection of COVID-19 and influenza increases morbidity and mortality, and influenza vaccination might reduce the likelihood of hospitalisation and the length of stay. As the risk groups of COVID-19 and influenza are similar, people who are at greater risk of influenza infection (e.g. healthcare workers, elderly and pregnant women) should be prioritised to receive influenza vaccination.
     In order to encourage the public to receive vaccination as early as possible, the Government will, in the 2021/22 season, continue to implement the Government Vaccination Programme (GVP), the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (VSS) and the 2021/22 SI Vaccination School Outreach (Free of Charge)(School Outreach (Free of Charge)) to provide free or subsidised influenza vaccination for target groups. Schools not joining the School Outreach (Free of Charge) may arrange outreach vaccination services through the VSS School Outreach (Extra Charge Allowed).
     The DH will provide influenza vaccines to kindergartens/child care centres (KGs/CCCs) which participate in the School Outreach (Free of Charge) in the 2021/22 season and endeavour to ensure a stable supply of vaccines. Depending on the supply, the DH will provide inactivated influenza vaccines and nasal live attenuated influenza vaccines to KGs/CCCs and doctors of the Public-Private-Partnership Outreach Teams.
     Since the epidemic of COVID-19 persists, if the outreach programme in the 2021/22 season continues to be affected by the suspension of face-to-face classes, the DH will, in light of the development of the epidemic, liaise with schools and arrange students to receive influenza vaccination at schools with strengthened infection control. The DH will also continue to work closely with schools and share relevant information via schools to parents whose students cannot receive vaccination through the outreach programme to arrange vaccination for them at clinics of family doctors as early as possible.
     Besides, in order to increase the coverage rate of SI vaccination among the public, the DH will continue to promote the importance of receiving SI vaccination and COVID-19 vaccination to all targeted groups through multiple channels, including press releases, TV/Radio Announcements in the Public Interests, interviews with specialists, videos of key opinion leaders, health talks, advertisements (public transport/social media/newspaper), online information, Health Education Infoline, posters and pamphlets, etc.
     The DH will continue to work with other departments/organisations including doctors' groups, medical schools and nursing schools to take proactive measures to encourage more people in the target groups to receive SI vaccination through enhancing the awareness of the healthcare workers and public on the need for vaccination.
Ends/Wednesday, July 7, 2021
Issued at HKT 14:30
Today's Press Releases