Taiwan’s flu season, which runs between November and March, is just around the corner. The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has therefore begun publishing its annual influenza report, the “Influenza Express,” updated weekly from October through May.
Despite the ease of controlling the spread of flu through vaccination, only around a quarter of Taiwan’s population received a flu shot last year. In comparison, the vaccination rate in both the United Kingdom and South Korea was over 80%.
This relatively low coverage rate in Taiwan is not limited to influenza, but the battle against Covid-19 demonstrated the power of public awareness of the benefits of vaccination. The CDC proactively disseminated information about Covid vaccine brands, enabling individuals to make informed vaccination choices. With a remarkable first-dose coverage rate of 94% – one of the world’s highest – Taiwan showed the impact of transparent communication of vaccine information, including the names of manufacturers and their brands.
Despite this success, Taiwan still faces challenges in incorporating new vaccines into its routine immunization schedule. Inadequate funding has also caused significant delays in including essential vaccines like child rotavirus vaccines and pneumococcal vaccines for those aged 65 and above. Furthermore, Taiwan lags behind 47 Western countries in implementing a national immunization policy for HPV vaccination in boys and girls.
A critical step in bolstering Taiwan’s immunization efforts is to ensure sufficient funding of the National Vaccine Fund (NVF). Although the CDC’s Strategic Plan Phase 1 specifies that contributions from the national treasury should constitute 60% of the total NVF, actual contributions since 2017 have only averaged around 30% at most. If the Executive Yuan were to implement an inter-ministerial national immunization prevention and control policy, it could more efficiently identify funding gaps and more accurately assess the needed financial resources.
To raise public awareness, the CDC’s official website should draw from its Covid success and prominently feature vaccine manufacturers and brand names, expanding the transparent communication practices established for Covid-19 vaccinations to include routine vaccines as well.
By providing detailed vaccine information, the government could raise public awareness of the benefits of immunization, in turn fostering shared decision-making between patients and physicians and boosting people’s willingness to receive vaccinations. This approach would likely be cost-effective by preventing illness and consequently reducing medical expenditures.
The Taiwan CDC website could also draw inspiration from the national immunization websites of countries like the United States, Australia, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, where ample information is easily accessible. The website should serve as a comprehensive and trustworthy source of information on immunization, providing details on preventable diseases, recommended vaccination age, vaccine brand names, and manufacturers.
Motivating more people to get vaccinated will ultimately lead to a healthier population and ease the strain on the healthcare system due to the rising cost of healthcare.