Pregnant women to be targeted in new H1N1 plan

By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-10 08:09

Pregnant women to be targeted in new H1N1 plan
Doctors at Anqing City Hospital in Anhui province perform a last check on a patient who had been treated for the H1N1 virus before she was discharged from the hospital. [Photo by Xu Jixiang/China Daily]

China is preparing an inoculation plan for all pregnant women, who make up nearly 14 percent of the total number of reported deaths from the A/H1N1 flu on the mainland.

Nearly 8 percent of pregnant women have severe cases of H1N1, according to the Ministry of Health yesterday. Forty-six pregnant women have thus far died because of the flu.

Other groups facing high risks of infection include the chronically ill, the obese, infants and seniors, the ministry said.

No clear evidence has so far shown that the vaccine harms both the pregnant mother and her baby, according to international studies.

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Health experts and officials with departments such as the Ministry of Health, the State Food and Drug Administration, and the Chinese Center for Disease Prevention and Control are currently working closely to figure out an exact inoculation plan for pregnant women, said Zhao Kai, a vaccine expert and academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, yesterday.

"Pregnant women are advised to consult obstetric doctors before deciding whether or not to get the jab," he said.

Of the total number of H1N1 deaths, approximately 47 percent suffered from chronic diseases and 18 percent were obese. Men accounted for 58 percent of the death toll.

It is the first time that the ministry has released an exact breakdown of severe cases and deaths related to the flu. The announcement came following a report by Guangzhou Daily that 80 percent of all H1N1 deaths on the mainland were pregnant women.

The publication quoted renowned Dr Zhong Nanshan for the story but he denounced the story as false yesterday.

Pregnant women to be targeted in new H1N1 plan

He did, however, warn pregnant women of the high risk of contracting H1N1 and recommended that they take antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu as soon as they show signs of illness.

Feng Zijian, director of the emergency response department of the CDC told China Daily that the majority of pregnant victims had been carrying their babies for six months or more. In several cases, the babies survived the infection.

As the pandemic grows, Feng urges people to practice good hygiene and avoid crowded areas.

China's stockpile of H1N1 vaccines can currently inoculate 26 million people, according to official statistics.

As of yesterday, more than 31 million have been vaccinated against the H1N1 flu on the mainland, excluding pregnant women and children under the age of 3, according to official statistics.

Vivian Tan, press officer of the WHO Beijing Office, said given that the profile of the pandemic flu vaccine is similar to that of the seasonal flu vaccine, many countries have started vaccinating pregnant women as part of the vaccination campaign against H1N1.

"WHO recommends that pregnant women get the shot," she said.

The mainland reported 125 deaths in the week from Nov 30 to Dec 6, nearly 65 percent of the month's toll of 194 deaths.

Almost 10,000 new cases had been confirmed this week, bringing the total to more than 100,000, according to the ministry.