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Vaccination Drive Boosted to 15 Diseases

The country's immunization drive has been given a shot in the arm to protect people against 15 infectious diseases for free, a document from the Ministry of Health said Monday.

The plan will see China holding the world's most extensive immunization drive, with 14 vaccines covering the 15 diseases, ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an said at a press conference Monday.

Eight vaccines have been added to prevent diseases such as hepatitis A and epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis, Mao said.

Among the new vaccines are four specially formulated for children, the ministry said. The rest are targeted at special groups of people deemed particularly susceptible to certain epidemics.

Premier Wen Jiabao first announced the ongoing nationwide immunity drive at the Fifth Session of the Tenth National People's Congress in March last year.

Before that, six vaccines were included in a plan that immunized people against tuberculosis, measles, polio, whooping cough and hepatitis B.

"Immunization provides protection not only to the immunized, but, in the case of many diseases, also the people with whom the immunized person comes in contact with," Mao said.

In two years', more than 90 percent of children will be vaccinated against most of the infectious diseases, the ministry.

Mao also said some adverse effects are inevitable for a small group of people because of their constitutions.

The government will compensate victims in such situations after the requisite verification, Mao said.

In response to public outcry over a umbilical cord blood bank in Shanghai profiteering from supplies meant for private use, Mao said an expert team had already been deployed to investigate the problem.

The Shanghai cord blood bank opened in 2006 in a bid to store donated cord blood and help match supplies to patients at no charge.

(China Daily February 19, 2008)

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