The nation still has more than 2 million doses of government-funded flu vaccines and shortages at some medical centers might be due to logistical issues, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday, rejecting media reports that flu vaccines were running low.
Local Chinese-language media on Tuesday reported that some public health centers and hospitals had announced that they did not have enough vaccines on the second day of phase two of the government-funded seasonal flu vaccination program.
The government is this year distributing the vaccines in three phases, beginning with elementary and high-school students and medical practitioners on Nov. 15, followed by the second phase, which started on Sunday, for preschoolers and people aged 65 and older.
Out of the 3.165 million doses of government-funded vaccines that have been dispatched to local health departments, only about 1.138 million have been used, leaving about 2.027 million available, and there has not been a shortage of vaccines, Chen said when asked for comment at the Legislative Yuan.
“Some facilities had more vaccine recipients while some had fewer,” he said, adding that the reported supply shortage could be due to local distribution problems.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said that the vaccines are dispatched from the local health departments to public health centers and healthcare facilities once per week.
“The shortage in some facilities may be caused by the health departments having a tighter control over the dispatching of vaccines and also the public’s willingness to get vaccinated being higher than expected,” he said.
Healthcare facilities can report supply shortages to local health departments, and the CDC would also assist the local health departments in dispatching vaccines when needed, Lo said.
A total of 258 cases of serious complications from seasonal flu, including 11 deaths, have been confirmed since the flu season began in October, according to CDC disease monitoring data.
The weekly reported cases of flu-like illness was about 75,000 last week, which is relatively low and has not reached the epidemic threshold, Chen said, adding that the situation so far this year is not more serious than in previous years.
The main circulating flu virus in the past four weeks is the influenza A (H1N1) strain, accounting for 86.7 percent of the reported cases, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Deputy Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said.
Nine clustered flu cases were reported on school campuses last week, Lo said.
As the flu vaccination completion rates so far are 66 percent in elementary schools and 45 percent in junior and senior-high schools, the centers expect to complete all school vaccinations by Jan. 10, he added.
Flu cases in many nations in the northern hemisphere, including Japan, South Korea, Canada and the US, have been increasing, with the outbreaks having reached epidemic scale, Guo said.
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