The government is being urged by medical professionals to work with international pharmaceutical companies to ensure the rapid development of a vaccine against hand, foot and mouth disease, which has been on the rise among children in Asia.
At least 60 children in Cambodia died recently after being infected by Enterovirus 71 (EV71), while Taiwan has reported 111 cases so far this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Enterovirus 71, is a virulent and potentially deadly form of foot and mouth disease that can also cause severe neurological disorders, said Liu Ching-chuan (劉清泉), director of the infectious disease control department at Cheng Kung National University Hospital.
In 1998, there were 450 cases of EV71 in Taiwan, 78 of them fatal, Liu said.
Since then, the nation has been working to develop an EV71 vaccine, which is now in the first phase of clinical trials, he added.
In contrast, China, one of the first countries to start work on an EV71 vaccine, is now conducting third-phase clinical trials and the vaccine is expected to reach the market in a year or two.
Taiwan should consider following Australia’s lead in working with international pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines, Liu said.
When Australian researchers discovered that the human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer, they presented their findings to major pharmaceutical companies and an HPV vaccine was soon on the market, he added.
The government should consider awarding manufacturing rights for the EV71 vaccine to pharmaceutical companies through international competitive bidding and incorporating it into the existing five-in-one vaccine for children against a range of potentially lethal diseases, he added.