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Public urged to take advantage of free vaccination program as flu season nears

TAIPEI--An annual free flu vaccination program kicked off nationwide Monday, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urging people from high-risk groups to receive vaccinations as early as possible because flu infection tends to reach its peak in autumn.

The flu vaccine is believed to provide effective prevention for the H3N2 Influenza A variant virus, the type that most commonly peaks during the autumn season, CDC Director-General Chang Feng-yee said during an inspection visit at Taipei City Hospital's Heping branch.

The director-general received a vaccination during his visit Monday morning, along with over 100 elderly citizens.

High-risk groups that are eligible for the free shots include elderly people over 65 years of age, children over 6 months old but below sixth grade, nursing home residents, poultry farmers and bird breeders, front-line medical professionals, and people suffering from severe injuries or diseases, the CDC explained.

CDC data showed that 247 cases of influenza with complications have been reported across the country since July 1 this year, with 94 percent, or 233 cases, involving the H3N2 Influenza A variant virus.

In addition, the data showed that 22 of the 23 fatal cases involved the H3N2 virus.

CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw said that the vaccination rate among medical professionals was about 80 percent in 2011, the highest of any other group in society, while the vaccination ratios among primary school students, elderly people and preschool children were 70 percent, 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Receiving a vaccination is the most efficient way to prevent the flu, but everyone is required to have their physical condition examined by a doctor before getting vaccinated, Chien Ta-jen, a CDC official said the same day in northern Taiwan's Miaoli County.

Chen Shu-chu, another CDC official, said that the Miaoli County government has procured more than 75,000 vaccine doses.

Chen pointed out that severe illnesses caused by influenza led to three deaths in Miaoli last year and none of the victims, who were aged 55, 73 and 74, received flu shots.

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A man receives a vaccination in Taipei, yesterday, the first day of the annual free flu vaccination program.(CNA)

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