Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) yesterday defended the nation’s vaccine policy during a radio interview, saying that it had nothing to do with politics.
“We were lucky enough to have the chance to purchase vaccines for A(H1N1) influenza. Our vaccine policy has nothing to do with politics. We did not do any favors for any specific manufacturer,” Yaung said.
The minister was invited to the radio station to defend the DOH’s vaccine policy after it became a target on several TV talk shows. Several guests questioned the quality and safety of the locally produced vaccines and suggested there was a political motive behind certain aspects of the vaccination policy.
“The critics on such TV talk shows are not professional health workers,” Yaung said.
The minister said that the DOH’s counterpart in Japan offered free vaccines to minorities, while in the US, free vaccines are only available for patients with severe injuries or children.
“In Taiwan, everybody enjoys free vaccines,” he said.
Regarding public concerns about local company Adimmune Corp’s (國光生技) vaccines, Yaung said that Adimmune’s standards for production were stricter than those set by the WHO, while the price of the vaccines was only half that of imported versions.
Meanwhile, during a press conference at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday afternoon, DOH Deputy Minister Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said that a total of 563,712 people had received shots at 2,584 hospitals and clinics and 354 other locations nationwide on Saturday, when the national vaccine program was launched. As of press time yesterday, Chang said that a total of 4.12 million people had received the vaccination.
“A total of 17.9 percent of the nation’s population became protected by the vaccines within the past month. I think this figure could put Taiwan in the top five in the world,” Chang said.
Meahwhile, Chou Jih-haw (周志浩), deputy director-general of the Centers for Disease Control, said on Monday that more than 750 people have been hospitalized after catching the A(H1N1) flu virus in Taiwan. The number of reported A(H1N1) infections has dwindled since an immunization program was launched Nov. 1, he said.
The national vaccination campaign initially focused on groups considered most vulnerable to swine flu, but was expanded on Saturday to cover all ordinary citizens.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA
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