Facing the dual threat of COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, which has always occurred in the autumn and winter, China is expanding the supply of flu vaccines this year to meet the expected increasing demand. Experts believe the flu vaccine will not be in short supply and the national arrangement will be finished in two months.
(File photo: IC)
More than 15 million doses of the flu vaccine have been approved for the market this year, but experts expect 35 million more will be approved in 2020, double the number of the previous year. Approval procedures are accelerating, as nearly 7 million doses were approved in the first eight days of September, the Beijing News reported.
In August, officials from the World Health Organization reminded countries to increase flu vaccination because of the difficulty of distinguishing the symptoms of COVID-19 from influenza and due to limited medical resources.
Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based immunologist, told chinanews.com that flu vaccinations will help eliminate confusion with COVID-19 cases. If a patient has a fever after an influenza vaccination, then it's likely they don't have the flu. Also, there is evidence that symptoms can worsen when someone is infected by both COVID-19 and influenza.
It's not yet the peak time for flu vaccination — that will come next month in the north and two months later in the south, but some regions have begun to prepare for flu prevention in China.
Some Chinese cities like Shanghai, as well as Shijiazhuang and Zhangjiakou in North China's Hebei Province and Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang Province, reportedly launched this year's flu vaccination campaign earlier than usual. Zhangjiakou started offering vaccinations as early as August, according to media reports.
A medical worker at a community hospital in Beijing's Chaoyang district told the Global Times on Wednesday that the flu vaccine will be available in late September or early October.
In August, Beijing launched the bidding process for the 2020-21 flu vaccine procurement, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Analysts said that China may provide universal flu vaccinations for workers in fields like medicine, public services and transportation, which will increase demand.
Primary and middle schools also usually encourage students to take the shots before flu season.
China's flu vaccines will not be in short supply when demand increases in the autumn and winter because of the national authorities' comprehensive preparations, Lü Mengtao, a Beijing-based industry observer and operation director of Beijing Zhimed Medical Science Co, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The immunization rate against the flu was not very high in the past in China, but the COVID-19 epidemic has raised public awareness of vaccines, so more people will want to get flu shots this year, explained Lü, saying that flu vaccinations usually peak between October and November.
"Based on China's current epidemic prevention measures and citizens' high sense of self-protection, the spread of influenza this year is likely to be more limited than in previous years," Lü said.
Public health specialists said that good hygiene habits such as frequent washing of hands and regular mask use could be more effective in preventing flu, as was shown during the coronavirus epidemic.
"Usually, outbreaks of respiratory infectious diseases don't repeat in consecutive years — there would be an interval of 10 years between each outbreak," Yang Zhanqiu, a virologist from Wuhan University, told the Global Times.