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September 26, 2017

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Taiwan, China won't cooperate on H7N9 vaccine: official

TAIPEI -- Taiwan will not work with China on the development of a vaccine against the H7N9 avian flu virus, but rather will try to do so on its own, Taiwan's Deputy Health Minister Lin Tzou-yien said yesterday.

Taiwan's government has assembled a task force to work on an H7N9 vaccine and will convene a meeting with domestic manufacturers April 12 to discuss mass production of the vaccine, Lin said after a meeting of the Central Epidemic Command Center earlier in the day.

There will be no cooperation with China in the effort to develop and manufacture the vaccine, he said.

Taiwan has two options regarding the production of the vaccine, according to Lin. One option is to culture the virus strain for the vaccine on its own, and the other is to skip that step and get the H7N9 vaccine strain from the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States, he said.

With the first option, it could take eight to 11 weeks to develop an H7N9 vaccine strain, Lin said.

But if Taiwan can obtain the vaccine strain directly from the United States or the WHO, the process will be quicker, Lin said.

After the vaccine strain turned over to manufacturers, it may take at least two months to produce it and another two months to complete testing, he said.

"From obtaining the vaccine strain to the production of the vaccine, it will take at the very least four months," Lin said.

Chang Fang-yee, head the Centers of Disease Control and the command center, said the Department of Health has sent two epidemiologists to Shanghai to learn more about China's strategy in combating the H7N9 flu, but they might not be able to bring back virus cultures for vaccine purposes because of time constraints.

So far, China has confirmed 24 H7N9 bird flu cases, with seven deaths. They are the first reported cases in the world of H7N9 human infections.

Taiwan's CDC has listed the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui, as well as the cities of Shanghai and Nanjing, as areas affected by the H7N9 virus.

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