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June 29, 2017

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New outbreak of H1N1 could occur in February

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Expressing worry about a sharp decline in the number of Taiwanese residents receiving H1N1 vaccinations, former Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yeh Chin-chuan warned Sunday that a new wave of outbreak of H1N1 flu could hit Taiwan in February.

Yeh said the fatality rate is 1: 10,000 if people do not receive H1N1 immunization because of doubts over the safety of the vaccine, while the rate is under one out of every 1 million if people are vaccinated.

So far, 5.6 million local people have been vaccinated, with only some 600 cases allegedly developing side effects because of the vaccine, Yeh said, adding that the majority of these cases have not been proven to be directly related to H1N1 vaccine.

A second wave outbreak of H1N1 flu will be a sure thing in Taiwan as the winter break approaches and air travel increases if the people continue to resist the government's vaccination drive because of doubts and concerns, he added.

He said 37 people have died of H1N1 flu in Taiwan since the beginning of global outbreaks early last year and some 10,000 other people have been detected to have been infected with the H1N1 virus, signaling that immunization is imperative.

Yeh urged all non-vaccinated people to get vaccinated and said he did not understand why people are still resistant to accepting the HIN1 vaccine, since the benefits of immunization far outweigh the risks of not being vaccinated.

Amid doubts and concerns over the safety of the vaccine after a 7-year-old died several weeks after being immunized, there has been resistance among the public against the vaccination drive.

As a result of the resistance, the number of new influenza A(H1N1) infection cases in Taiwan rose over the past one month, overturning a positive situation posted in November in which the number dropped significantly since the vaccination campaign was launched nationwide Nov. 1.

The number of people vaccinated against H1N1 reached a single-day record of 560,000 in mid-December, a number that had plummeted to a mere 42,000 as of Dec. 25, according to the Department of Health.

The immunization drive proved its success in Taiwan between Nov. 21 and Nov. 23, when no H1N1 hospitalized cases were recorded.

This performance, however, was smashed Dec. 25 when five new cases were reported, underlining that the resistance against the vaccination drive has dragged down the entire H1N1-fighting effort.

Meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Shih Wen-yi said it's time for the public to do some real thinking about the necessity of immunization now that 37 people have died of the disease.

He also called for the people to trust the specialists' words rather than listening to TV talks show hosts on the issue.

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