Veterinarians and people working in animal-related industries yesterday expressed concern about the limited supply of the human rabies vaccine in the nation, after three cases of rabies in wild Formosan ferret-badgers were confirmed.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) held a press conference in Taipei yesterday where vets and people working in the pet industry and for animal protection groups said the government’s lack of preparedness has exposed front-line workers to an extremely dangerous situation.
The press conference came one day after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a list, drawn up during an emergency meeting with the Department of Health with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), of groups it recommended receiving vaccinations against rabies.
The groups include residents living in the three towns where the infected ferret-badgers were found —Yuchih (魚池) and Lugu (鹿谷) townships in Nantou County and Gukeng Township (古坑) in Yunlin County — who have been bitten by wild mammals or stray dogs and cats; and people living in these areas whose pet dogs or cats have developed rabies-like symptoms.
People who have been bitten or scratched by wild mammals that are not strays, regardless of location, should also seek immediate medical attention and be inoculated, the CDC said.
Not on the list are people working in animal-related industries.
Chen said the number of people in these industries far outnumber the number of doses of rabies vaccine now available in the nation.
There are about 5,000 vets, 15,000 vet assistants and 30,000 to 50,000 pet industry and animal protection workers, Chen said, while CDC Deputy Director Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) announced earlier in the week that there are 400 doses of rabies vaccine in storage.
Since a person needs to receive four to five shots of the vaccine to be fully protected against rabies, those 400 doses would only protect about 100 people, the lawmaker said.
Taiwan Veterinary Clinician Association director-general Yeh Chun-lung (葉俊龍) said frontline animal carers are often bitten in their work, making them a high-risk group for rabies.
Yeh urged the government to provide free vaccines for these workers.
“We asked vaccine manufacturers in the country to secure the stock right after we were notified of the test results [on the ferret-badgers],” Chou said.
“They have been tremendously cooperative, saying that they will have 1,000 doses initially scheduled to ship to other countries available for us. The estimated arrival time of this batch of vaccines is late August or early September,” he said.
Later yesterday the CDC said that following its urgent requests, about 2,500 doses of rabies vaccine from two major pharmaceutical companies are scheduled to arrive in Taiwan by Friday next week.