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May 27, 2017

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Man given NT$50,000 after flu vaccine

The Department of Health (DOH) decided yesterday to offer a relief fund of NT$50,000 to a 35-year-old man because he showed symptoms including numbness in the lower limbs after getting A(H1N1) flu vaccination, making him the first recipient of financial aid related to the vaccine shots.

Medical experts on a panel screening the medical cases related to vaccination said they have so far reviewed applications for relief fund in 39 cases connected to A(H1N1) flu inoculation, but the man was the only patient qualified for the relief measure.

Commensurate compensation to victimized vaccine recipients will be offered only when three major criteria are met: 1) after they are diagnosed to have suffered consequences related to vaccination; 2) their sufferings have reached a specific extent, and 3) the effects of the vaccines are unable to be ruled out, they explained.

The male patient in the case met the third criterion since the panel was unable to completely exclude the possible impact from the vaccine.

Thirteen days after taking the vaccine shot, the man showed symptoms of fever and numbness in the feet.

Since the man has a medical history of diseases, including problems in spinal cord, the problem could have arisen from effects on his immune system.

He will be given a relief fund of NT$50,000 because the team of medical experts were unable to entirely rule out the connection between the vaccine and the symptoms, a spokesman of the panel said.

The patient is presently recovering from the conditions after follow-up medical treatment, he said.

Families of some patients have held press conferences along with elected officials, mainly lawmakers and members of local county or city councils, to publicly question the connection between the causes of the patients' deaths and the anti-flu vaccine.

They accused the DOH for providing unsafe vaccines and sought government compensation.

At a press conference yesterday, Chang Yao-chung, a member of the Taichung City Council, said a student at a senior high vocational school in the central Taiwan city suddenly lapsed into unconsciousness and died after receiving the vaccine.

There were similar cases and suspicions expressed by patients' families.

DOH officials said autopsies will be performed at the request of families to determine the actual causes of patients' deaths with objective reviews by a panel of medical experts.

But families can also appeal their cases or use other channels for relief if they do not accept the ruling of the panel.

Families of some deceased patients have already filed charges against doctors who provided medical treatment and the DOH for providing the vaccines.

DOH officials such litigation cases will have to be dealt with via proper legal procedures.

Prosecutors said they can proceed with the judicial procedures only after gathering adequate evidence and getting formal medical reports from the Institute of Forensic Medicine under the Ministry of Justice to help determine the responsible parties for the cases.

Officials at the institute confirmed that they have been working on some cases related to the flu vaccines forwarded from prosecutors in various districts to help settle the medical disputes.

But they said the institute will not make public the findings concerning any particular cases before adequate medical examinations and analyses are completed.

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