After three townships in the south reported their first cases of rabies in 52 years, the Department of Health (DOH) launched a free vaccination program yesterday for people bitten by wild animals in the townships.
The program was initiated after the authorities in Gukeng Township (古坑) in Yunlin County, and in Nantou County’s Yuchih (魚池) and Lugu (鹿谷) townships confirmed the rabies cases.
Under the program, cases of people bitten by wild animals in the infected townships or nearby mountainous areas must be reported to the health department.
They will be able to receive free rabies vaccinations upon a doctor’s recommendation, Deputy Department of Health Minister Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) said.
However, anyone else getting inoculated for protection against the disease will have to foot the bill themselves, Lin said.
An animal disease control center in Nantou County said yesterday that free vaccinations for pet cats and dogs in Yuchi and Lugu townships will be administered in 10 sessions.
More than 100 pets were vaccinated in less than two hours yesterday morning, Hsu Kuo-hui (許國輝) of the disease center said, adding that pet owners face fines of between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000 if they do not get their pets vaccinated.
Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said an emergency shipment of 2,500 doses of a rabies vaccine for humans is expected by Friday next week.
Taiwan Veterinary Medical Association deputy director-general Chen Pei-chung (陳培中) on Thursday said that only 400 doses of rabies vaccine for human use are currently available, far short of the amount required for the nation’s 40,000 to 50,000 veterinarians, animal quarantine officials and pet groomers.