Human testing of a domestically developed vaccine against the H5N1 avian influenza virus is expected to begin next month at the earliest, an executive from Adimmune Corp, a local vaccine manufacturer, said yesterday.
If the clinical trial begins next month, it would likely be completed in the first quarter of next year and could help the country confront the deadly virus should an outbreak occur, Adimmune chief executive Chang Chin-chuan (張金全) said.
Animal testing of the H5N1 vaccine was completed late last year, he said.
Taiwan is classified as being free of H5N1.
Once human testing is completed, the H5N1 vaccine is expected to be offered to all Taiwanese over the age of three, Chang said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), since 2003 Taiwan has been importing the H5N1 vaccine as a preventive measure. There is presently a stockpile of 100,000 doses and the vaccines are available to medical personnel, disease prevention workers and people in the poultry farming sector, the CDC said.
Since 2003, there have been 589 confirmed cases of humans contracting the H5N1 virus worldwide, 348 of which have been fatal, representing a mortality rate of almost 60 percent. Of the cases, 185 were in Indonesia, 163 in Egypt and 121 in Vietnam, according to the WHO.
Meanwhile, according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), H5N1 infection rates have been rising worldwide this winter, with the number of cases almost doubling last month from the previous month.
So far this year, 51 cases have been reported in nine countries or territories — Hong Kong, Vietnam, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Australia and South Africa, from highest to lowest number of cases, according to OIE data.
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