Government urged to fast track Enterovirus 71 vaccine

A doctor urged the government Sunday to work with international pharmaceutical companies to ensure fast development of a vaccine against hand, foot and mouth disease, which has been on the rise among children in Asia. 

At least 60 children in Cambodia died recently of infection by Enterovirus 71, while Taiwan has reported 111 cases so far this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. 

Enterovirus 71 (EV71), is a virulent and potentially deadly form of foot and mouth disease and can also cause severe neurological disorders, said Liu Ching-chuan, director of the infectious disease control department at Cheng Kung National University Hospital. 

In 1998, there were 450 cases of EV71 in Taiwan, 78 of them fatal, Liu said. Since then, Taiwan has been engaged in the research and development of an EV71 vaccine, which is now in the first phase of clinical trials, he said. 

In contrast, China, one of the few countries that got off to an early start on the development of an EV71 vaccine, is now conducting third-phase clinical trials and the vaccine is expected to reach the market in a year or two, he said. 

Taiwan should consider following Australia's lead in working with international pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines, he said. 

After Australian researchers discovered that the human papilloma virus can cause cervical cancer, they presented their findings to big pharmaceutical companies and in no time, an HPV vaccine was on the market, Lin pointed out. 

The Taiwan government should consider awarding the manufacturing rights for the EV71 vaccine to pharmaceutical companies through international competitive bidding and incorporating it into the existing five-in-one vaccine for children against a range of potentially lethal diseases, he said.

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