The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is to pause a plan to administer hepatitis A vaccines to children older than 12 months after the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee questioned the plan’s effectiveness yesterday.
The proportion of children younger than 18 who contract hepatitis A every year is low, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀) said.
Among children younger than 18, there had only been 16 cases in the first 11 months of the year, 27 last year and five in 2015, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said.
Lin, who chaired the meeting, said that doctors have reported that while hepatitis A vaccines have been administered to children older than 12 months, they are not included in subsidies for children’s standard vaccinations, which might result in doctors being unable to apply for reimbursement of vaccination costs.
“Are doctors who administer the vaccines supposed to earn spiritual merit,” she asked, in a sarcastic reference to comments by Premier William Lai (賴清德) in October asking caregivers to look past their low salaries and regard their work as a way to earn spiritual merit.
The agency’s plan has not been reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, nor has it been assessed by the Taiwan Pediatric Association, Lin said, adding that there were clearly flaws in the procedure.
She urged the Ministry of Health and Welfare to put the plan on hold until it has evaluated demand for the vaccines and secured funding to cover the costs of sourcing, delivering and administering them.
Lin’s proposal was backed by other lawmakers at the meeting, which was convened to review draft amendments to the Artificial Reproduction Act (人工生殖法) and the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act (兒童及少年性剝削防制條例).
Lo said he respects the opinions of the lawmakers and would reassess the timetable and costs of the vaccinations.
After receiving vaccine donations from civic organizations, the CDC on Friday last week announced the plan to administer government-funded vaccines to infants born after Jan. 1 who are older than 12 months after Jan. 1 next year.