Beijing will launch a full-scale influenza vaccination program at the end of September to avoid dual infections involving COVID-19 and the flu, and avoid a strain on medical resources, as China is on alert for a potential wave of COVID-19 this autumn and winter.
The city has set up 446 free flu vaccination centers and 480 centers under a self-paying vaccine program in medical and health institutions, according to the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A full-scale flu vaccination program will reduce the risk of people contracting the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously, and it will relieve the strain on the healthcare system as the country braces to fight another potential epidemic wave, experts noted.
Primary and middle school students and people aged above 60 in the city will be given free flu vaccinations from October 10 to November 30. They will receive the vaccine in groups at schools and local vaccination centers.
Other residents must make appointments online or by phone, starting Friday.
The Global Times learned from the health commission of some communities in Beijing‘s Fengtai, Chaoyang and Xicheng districts that they have started flu vaccination preparation work and have received many inquiries from residents about the vaccine.
An employee at the health service center of Hujialou community in Chaoyang district told the Global Times on Thursday that about 400 residents have already made online appointments.
She noted that unlike in past years, this year‘s vaccination program has imposed strict restrictions on the time and the number of people getting the shots at the designed centers.
Only 25 people are allowed to receive the vaccine every hour.
The Beijing CDC has encouraged medical workers and school staff to take the flu vaccine, and encouraged elderly and high-risk people to be vaccinated against pneumococcal disease as well, to prevent respiratory tract infections in the autumn and winter.
“The best time to get vaccinated is before the flu season, usually during September and October,” Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, told the Global Times on Thursday.
All the free and paid flu vaccines that will be used in the city are carefully chosen in accordance with national standards, which fall into two categories – trivalent and tetravalent vaccines – as recommended by the World Health Organization.
The number of flu vaccine doses in 2020 is expected to double from 2019 to 50 million, according to Zhang Hui, vice president of the National Institute for Food and Drug Control.
“If the 50 million doses of flu vaccine are not wasted, China‘s flu vaccination rate will reach 4 percent, a record high,” Tao said.
Flu vaccination will greatly help to reduce the difficulty of distinguishing between COVID-19 and flu among patients with similar symptoms, and decrease the cost of isolation and treatment of patients, Wang Peiyu, deputy head of Peking University‘s School of Public Health, told the Global Times.
According to the flu vaccination guide issued by the Beijing Municipal Health Commission and Education Commission, , and a 50 percent vaccination rate among local primary and middle school students.