A medical staff shows a sample of measles vaccine at a vaccination site in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province, Sept. 11, 2010. A measles vaccination plan, mainly targeting children in the age bracket from eight months to four years, was carried out for nearly 100 million children across China from Sept. 11 to 20. (Xinhua/Li Ziheng)
BEIJING, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- China began a large-scale measles vaccination program for an estimated 100 million children Saturday.
The nationwide program over ten days mainly targets children aged between eight months and 14 years.
The program provides those children who missed a previous vaccination another chance to be vaccinated.
"The vaccination is not compulsory," said Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), in an interview with Xinhua. "The vaccination is free and will not be conducted unless the parents are well informed and give consent."
Medical data shows about 5 to 10 percent of children vaccinated against measles will still contract the disease, Wang said, "so it will be helpful to have the second jab. But if the parents refuse to give consent, we will respect their decision."
Children who received a measles vaccines within the last month will be excluded.
According to China's health ministry, China reported 131,000 measles cases in 2008, accounting for 46 percent of the world's total. The figure dropped by 60.1 percent to 52,000 in 2009 and, in the first six months of this year, it was down 25.1 percent compared with the same period of last year, due to "regular vaccination."
Some parents have voiced concerns about the quality of the vaccines and the qualifications of the medical staff who administer the injections.
Hao Yang, deputy director of the ministry's disease control bureau, told a press conference Friday the ministry has taken strict measures to ensure the quality and safety of the vaccines, noting that the vaccines are domestically-made and have been used for many years.
The ministry said it has allocated 157 million yuan (23 million U.S. dollars) for the vaccination program.
A highly contagious disease, measles affects mostly children. Its symptoms are high fever and rashes. Most people recover within two to three weeks.