The plan to give free pneumococcal vaccines to senior citizens will be implemented next year, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday.
“The DOH is planning to allocate funding for the vaccines this year,” said DOH Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said. “It is estimated that starting in 2010, people over 75 who are at high risk of contracting pneumonia, will be vaccinated.”
Yeh said the DOH would establish a vaccine foundation this year and would welcome donations from the public and the business community.
“If the foundation gets more donations, then the DOH will contemplate giving free shots to the over 70s,” he said.
DOH Deputy Minister Chen Tzay-jinn (陳再晉) said that Taiwan has about 1 million people aged 75 or older, and predicted their numbers would grow by 628,000 over the next five years, underpinning the need to quickly secure more doses of the vaccine.
One dose costs about NT$1,000, but if purchased in large volumes, total expenses could be kept to within NT$100 million, he said.
The DOH’s Centers for Disease Control estimated that about 85,000 senior citizens seek treatment for pneumonia every year, with 6,000 of them dying of the disease.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, the bacteria that the vaccine fights, is the leading cause of pneumonia fatalities, accounting for 30 percent of such deaths.