BEIJING, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese health
officials are preparing 23 million to 25 million doses of flu vaccine, after
experts warned the H5N1 bird flu could break out again with other flu strains
during winter and spring.
The vaccines would be available from mid September,
when an inoculation campaign began, said a statement by the China Preventive
Medicine Association. The quantity of doses is 20 percent more than last year.
Six million to seven million doses will contain no
preservative, about eight times as many as last year, according to Sanofi
Pasteur, the major provider of flu vaccines to China.
The preservative in the other vaccines was a mercuric
compound used to prevent contamination in production and transportation. It has
proved harmless so far, but some U.S. organizations have recommended minimal use
of the preservative in production.
About three million doses of flu vaccine will be
provided for babies below three years old this year, nearly 30 percent more than
last year, according to the company.
The H5N1 outbreaks since 2003 around the globe all
happened in winter and spring, so it was highly possible another outbreak might
occur if the trend continued. It coincided with the high prevalence season for
human flu, said an expert quoting epidemiological research results released by
the World Health Organization (WHO) in June.
It was difficult to predict future mutation of the
bird flu virus, but one possibility was that the virus mixed with human flu
viruses, creating a new type which could trigger a human pandemic, said Zeng
Guang, an expert with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Zeng said no major flu outbreaks had occurred in
China in the past few years, but localised outbreaks happened constantly,
including some in schools, in the first quarter of this year.
Figures from the Ministry of Health showed a 13
percent rise in the flu incidence rate in the first quarter compared with the
same period of last year.
As human flu outbreaks always occurred suddenly and
were hard to predict, it was crucial to take preventive measures, especially
when the H5N1 strain was still occurring, he said.
China has reported 21 human infections of bird flu
since 2003, including 14 deaths.
The country's bird flu vaccine for human use had been
proved safe and effective in preliminary clinical tests, announced the
government in August.
Experts fear the H5N1 bird flu virus could mutate
into a form able to spread among people, causing a global pandemic. It had
infected 247 people and killed 144 throughout the world by Sept. 19, according
to WHO figures. Enditem