January 5, 2024
HONG KONG – The peak of seasonal influenza may begin next week, coinciding with increasing activity of the JN.1 virus, a new COVID-19 variant, Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said on Thursday, urging the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Department of Health, said the latest laboratory surveillance of the positive rates of influenza has increased to 8.49 percent, which is close to the baseline level, and the admission rate at public hospitals has risen above the baseline level.
Although influenza vaccination coverage rates for different groups have increased significantly this season, about half of the elderly and children have yet to be vaccinated, according to the CHP
It is expected that both figures will continue to rise in the coming week, and it’s difficult to predict how long this peak season will last, she said.
Although influenza vaccination coverage rates for different groups have increased significantly this season, about half of the elderly and children have yet to be vaccinated, according to the center.
Chuang noted that the proportion of JN.1 infections has been increasing gradually, and now accounts for 26 percent of sewage samples and 60 percent of patient samples. JN.1 is expected to replace XBB as the dominant COVID-19 variant in Hong Kong.
The variant is spreading in many places around the world and has a stronger transmission than XBB. However, there is no report showing that JN.1 is more serious than other variants, and the XBB vaccine also provides protection against JN.1.
The center said that despite the number of deaths and serious cases remaining stable, there were two recent cases of children suffering from serious illnesses after being infected with COVID-19. It urged parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible.
Albert Au Ka-wing, head of the Emergency Response and Programme Management Branch of the Department of Health, said that most of the public have completed three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, but only 30 percent of children aged six months to three years have been vaccinated, and only one-quarter of people over 80 years old have received a fourth dose of the vaccine.
The government bought 200,000 doses of the XBB vaccine, and people aged 65 or above and those elderly people living in residential care homes will enjoy priority in receiving the jabs. There are ample available slots for free vaccination.