A new study from a combined team of American and Chinese scientists is suggesting that China implement a new national flu vaccine strategy. The paper, published today in the journal PLOS Medicine, states that China should use a staggered flu vaccination procedure for different regions of the country.
“This research suggests the need for staggered timing of vaccination in three broad epidemiological regions,” said Dr. Cecile Viboud, co-author of the study and a researcher at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Fogarty International Center.
The suggestion centers on three general regions of China – the north, the south, and the mid-latitude regions. While the northern regions of China experience a flu season similar to the ones seen in the U.S. and Europe, the southern portion of China has been observed to have its flu season during the spring months.
Researchers are specifically recommending that northern China receive flu vaccination shipments starting in October, while southern Chinese provinces should be prioritized starting in February. Flu statistics in the third middle region will, according to the study’s authors, need to be expanded upon before suggestions can be made for vaccination timings.
“The situation of mid-latitude Chinese provinces is more complex, due to semi-annual patterns of influenza activity, and longer epidemic periods,” said the study’s authors. “Denser sampling over a longer period of time will have to be done to establish the optimal timing of vaccination in those areas.”
The study’s suggestions are working towards becoming part of a comprehensive, country-wide vaccination plan for China. Thought he Chines government has offered flu vaccines since 1998, the NIH estimates that only around 2% of Chinese citizens are immunized each year. It also estimates that between 11 and 18 Chinese people per 100,000 die of the flu each year, many of them in China’s rural countryside.