Health officials said yesterday the government would integrate biotech industries to step up efforts to develop a vaccine for enterovirus, which has claimed the lives of six children this year, all under the age of five.
“We want to bring together experts from the public and private sectors to push the program, since we are treating it as one of the nation’s major projects in the biotech industry,” Centers for Disease Control Director Steve Kuo (郭旭崧) told a press conference held after yesterday’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
At the meeting, Department of Health Minister Lin Fang-yue (林芳郁) and Kuo gave briefings on the enterovirus situation.
The Cabinet meeting passed a proposed amendment to the Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Law (傳染病防治法) that would create a national fund to pay for development and procurement of vaccines.
“The government used to allocate a NT$500 million [US$ 16.45 million] annual budget each year for disease prevention. To meet actual demand, we need NT$2 billion. Setting up this fund can ensure a stable source of funding,” Kuo said.
The risk of contracting enterovirus usually peaks for around two weeks in mid June, Kuo said.
“We have forecast that there will be a retreat [of the virus] in two weeks,” he said.
Kuo said the six fatalities involved infections passed between children in one family.
Kuo urged parents who notice the symptoms of enterovirus to take their children to a doctor immediately and to keep healthy siblings away.
While there was only one serious case of enterovirus last year, there have been 181 serious enterovirus cases this year, the department said on Wednesday. Five children remain in intensive care.
Lin has come under fire for the remarks he made on Wednesday when asked what the department would do if the disease did not dissipate within two weeks.
“[We] will pray then,” Lin said.
Lin said his comment had been “very inappropriate.”
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