Health department widens flu vaccine scope

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer

Mon, Oct 01, 2012 - Page 3

Beginning today, infants six months old and up, elementary-school children and the elderly will be able to receive publicly funded influenza vaccines, the Department of Health announced yesterday.

Centers for Disease Control Deputy-Director Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said the department had purchased 2.9 million vaccines this year, an increase of 315,000 from last year, adding that the increase was because targeted vaccinations now include fifth and sixth-grade elementary-school students.

Chou also said that if there are surplus vaccines left at the end of the year, they would be reserved to vaccinate patients between 50 to 64 years old suffering from type II diabetes, chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiovascular disease or chronic pulmonary disease.

Huang Tsung-ning (黃瑽寧), a clinical professor of medicine at Mackay Memorial Hospital’s pediatric infection department, said that although older children have a relatively decreased chance of contracting a serious illness compared with younger children, since influenza outbreaks tend to start in schools, increasing the scope of student immunization would reduce the amount of children who catch it.

Huang said that state-funded flu vaccines were also available for patients currently living in nursing homes, patients with documented proof of serious or rare injuries, medical staff, those involved in epidemic prevention and those who raise poultry and livestock.

The influenza vaccine is the oldest and most stable of vaccines, Huang said, adding that people should aim to be vaccinated before the end of next month, which is usually the apex of the flu season.

After being vaccinated, patients might experience slight discomfort, Huang said, adding that the vaccines needed at least two weeks after being administered before they effectively raise the level of antibodies in the human body.

All other people will have to pay for their immunizations, including those with chronic illnesses, pregnant women and those who are obese and do not fit within the aforementioned parameters.

Taipei Veteran’s General Hospital said that starting today until Oct. 12, it is setting up a special counter for vaccination purposes in the main lobby of its Chungcheng building.