Increases in international travel and trade plus global environmental changes are adding to infectious disease challenges that threaten both public health and national security in new ways. Our government places the highest priority on protecting Taiwan's people from infectious diseases and on minimizing these illnesses' impacts on their livelihood.
Leadership in the Fight Against Dengue
According to the World Health Organization, the incidence of dengue has increased 30-fold over the past 50 years. Similarly, the annual number of imported dengue cases in Taiwan has exceeded 300 since 2015, showing the ever-increasing threat of dengue epidemics.
Taiwan CDC proposed the following prevention and control approaches for dengue in May 2016: launching prevention and control interventions early in each year, and holding monthly multi-agency meetings on mosquito-borne disease control to link central and local governments. Cooperation with local governments also promotes inspections and disinfection of high-risk areas such as older communities and urban farms to limit dengue's spread.
As for border quarantine, we continue to promote fever screening and NS1 rapid testing at international ports to block dengue at the border. We also support primary health centers and clinics in using NS1 rapid testing to detect suspected cases earlier, as this increases test accessibility and allows quicker official action to improve dengue control. A National Mosquito-Borne Diseases Control Research Center was founded in April 2016 to develop new technologies and provide dengue-related training.
These measures have helped to reduce dengue incidence significantly in 2017-2018, and there were no dengue-related deaths in 2018.
Doubled Vaccination Coverage Reduces Flu Impacts
Influenza viruses are difficult to combat because they mutate quickly. About 1,000 to 2,200 people die of flu-related illness in Taiwan every year. To reduce the larger social costs of influenza and protect public health, Taiwan CDC implemented 5 new policies. First, government-funded influenza vaccine doses were doubled from three to six million as vaccination targets increased. Second, private resources were integrated to develop the influenza surveillance and forecasting network. Third, government-funded influenza antivirals were provided to more people while increasing the number of contracted hospitals and clinics for broader access. Fourth, risk communication and real-time interaction were strengthened. Fifth, epidemic peak response strategies were projected to improve care quality and resource integration.
These measures have led to significantly higher vaccination rates among high-risk groups, as well as to fewer influenza deaths and serious complications.
Upgrading Vaccination Policies
Vaccination is the foundation of public health and infectious disease control, as medical history shows many examples of vaccination policies that controlled, eliminated or eradicated infectious diseases. Limited resources have not prevented the government from upgrading and introducing new vaccination initiatives. High-quality cell culture-based Japanese encephalitis vaccine was introduced in May 2017, and the following year hepatitis A vaccine was made available for children via the national immunization program and public-private partnerships.
At present, 10 vaccines for children that prevent 15 vaccine-preventable diseases are included in the national immunization program. These vaccinations protect children's health and protect their families from health-related financial crises. To encourage hospitals and clinics to provide convenient vaccination services, the government increased immunization subsidies starting in 2018 so children and the elderly no longer have to pay diagnostic fees when receiving publicly funded vaccines. Thanks to these initiatives and the many health professionals who implement them, immunization coverage of children under 3 years old is 93.8%, comparable to other advanced countries.
Preventing and controlling infectious diseases is a long-term effort. Taiwan CDC will always stand on the front line and promote effective policies to protect national health.