How to Prepare For Flu Season in Hong Kong

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It is finally cooler in Hong Kong and it is the time of the year to get your flu shot. Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu in Hong Kong, reducing doctor visits, school sick days, work sick days and preventing hospitalizations. People who are most vulnerable to flu complications are very young children, pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions and the elderly. It is common to get a seasonal flu shot in Hong Kong, especially since the dense population can facilitate the transmission of the flu. Here are some key facts about influenza in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Vaccination Subsidy Scheme.


Flu season in Hong Kong: January to March and July to August

According to the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection, seasonal influenza commonly occurs between January to March and July to August. The Centre for Health Protection advises getting the flu shot in the fall every year. Why fall? Because your body needs at least two weeks to produce the antibodies necessary to ward off the virus and in the meantime you should take necessary personal and environmental hygiene measures to avoid contracting or spreading the flu.


Flu vaccine in Hong Kong in the Public sector: The Government Vaccination Programme (GVP)

While Hong Kong’s public health sector does not provide free influenza vaccination to the general population, it has implemented the Government Vaccination Programme (GVP) to encourage vulnerable groups to get vaccinated.


Who is eligible?

  • Children 6 months to 12 years of age or primary school children
  • Pregnant women
  • Elderly aged over 65 years
  • Residents of Residential Care Homes
  • Persons with chronic medical problems
  • Healthcare workers
  • Poultry workers
  • Pig farmers and pig-slaughtering industry personnel

Subsidy amount? Full amount.


Where? At a designated Hospital Authority outpatient clinic. 


For more details of the government’s influenza vaccination scheme, check out our complete guide to flu vaccines in Hong Kong.

Flu vaccine in Hong Kong in the Private sector: The Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (VSS)

The government subsidizes people at risks of infection to receive influenza vaccination at private providers via the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (VSS). If you do not meet the eligibility and wish to receive a flu shot, you may visit a private clinic and pay its full price.


Who is eligible? 

Pregnant women, persons aged 50 or above, children, persons with intellectual disability, recipients of disability allowance and recipients of Standard Rate of “100% Disabled” or “Requiring Constant Attendance” under CSSA.


Subsidy amount? Those eligible for VSS: HK$240 per dose with a doctor enrolled in the scheme; not applicable to non-eligible persons.


Costs? On HK Island, prices vary between $250 and $450 for the vaccine and the clinic may charge a medical consultation fee in addition to the vaccine especially if it is your first visit, extra costs may be incurred. First-time consultation fees vary tremendously according to the doctor’s specialty and location. Ask at your clinic or doctor of your choice for more information.


Where? At private doctors enrolled in VSS. Look for the nearest doctor and their costs here

Do I have the flu or cold? Know the differences

The flu and the common cold are different. While both are contagious respiratory tract illnesses and include similar symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, runny nose, headache, malaise and fatigue, they are caused by different viruses. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, whereas the common cold is most often caused by a rhinovirus.


The main difference between the two is the severity and nature of the symptoms. A runny or stuffy nose is more commonly seen in the common cold whereas fever and muscle soreness are more common in the flu. Simply put, symptoms for the common cold are milder than for the flu.


Some people are less susceptible to the flu

Not every person who is infected with influenza presents the typical flu symptoms. According to British and American researchers, a study published in 2012 by Nature, they found a gene that plays an important role in your susceptibility to the flu. But before you run off and claim you got the flu because you are genetically predisposed, bear in mind that there are other factors that contribute to your overall susceptibility. Whether or not you are genetically more susceptible to the flu, proper hygiene, a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle will definitely help you keep your immune system top-notch!


Babies under the age of 6 months should not receive the flu shot

Babies under 6 months old are actually at the highest risk of developing (severe) complications. However, they are too young to receive a flu vaccine. Therefore, it is essential to protect them from the flu by maintaining proper hygiene, getting vaccinated yourself and keeping your infant away from people who are ill or showing flu symptoms. This will lower the chances of your baby contracting the virus.

Daily habits to protect yourself against the flu in Hong Kong

Whether or not you are vaccinated, adopting daily hygiene habits can help you protect yourself and the people around you against the flu:

  • Wash your hands with soap regularly, especially before touching your face, eating a meal or after touching doorknobs, handrails or lift buttons/switches.
  • If you cannot wash your hands regularly, use hand sanitizer (70-80% alcohol) as an alternative.
  • If you have respiratory symptoms, wear a surgical mask to avoid spreading your germs.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue and immediately dispose of the soiled tissue.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands if you coughed or sneezed in them.
  • Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated public places during influenza peaks.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: a balanced diet, adequate rest and regular exercise.
  • Wear a surgical mask if you belong to the at-risk population to avoid contracting the flu.

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This article was independently written by Healthy Matters and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be relied upon for specific medical advice.

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