Thu, Sep 24, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Ma willing to give local H1N1 vaccine a shot

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he would be inoculated with the A(H1N1) swine flu vaccine produced by a local biopharmaceuticals firm, Adimmune Corp (國光生技) if that would boost public confidence.

Ma made the remarks while chairing the second epidemic prevention advisory meeting at the Presidential Office yesterday afternoon. It is the first time he had responded to a question on whether he would be vaccinated with the locally produced swine flu vaccine.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said earlier that it was too early to discuss the issue as the vaccine had not yet passed human trials. Wang later said Ma was very healthy, so he did not need to be inoculated.

Ma said the Department of Health (DOH) has a priority list of recipients for the vaccine when it becomes available in November, but he and his family are willing to be inoculated with the locally produced vaccine in advance if it would boost public confidence.

Wang later added that Ma would only receive the local vaccine if the DOH’s evaluation concluded that it was necessary.

Topping the list of priority recipients for the vaccine are the victims of Typhoon Morakot, followed by health workers. Next on the list are pregnant women, children aged between one and six and patients with severe injuries aged seven and over; children aged between seven and 12 and teenagers between 13 and 15; teenagers aged between 16 and 18; young people aged between 19 and 24; patients older than 25 with cardiac problems, liver problems, kidney problems and diabetes; adults aged between 25 and 49; adults aged between 50 and 64; and senior citizens 65 and over.

Saying that vaccines were not 100 percent safe, Ma urged government agencies to be prepared to manage any potential crisis and to educate the public to minimize concerns over the vaccination program.

Quoting WHO data showing that more than 300,000 people around the world have been infected with the A(H1N1) influenza and that more than 3,000 have died, Ma said Taiwan must not let its guard down as colder weather approaches. The epidemic has claimed 17 lives in Taiwan.

Ma urged government agencies to handle the matter with caution because one miscalculation could undermine public confidence in the administration’s efforts.

He said the epidemic was likely to reach its peak in fall, but he hoped this could be averted or delayed when local supplies of the vaccine become available.

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