The China Post staff and agencies
The National Health Research Institute (NHRI) said yesterday that Taiwan has conducted successful animals tests on a vaccine that could protect people against a yet-to-emerge pandemic strain of bird flu.
Mass production of flu vaccine against the virulent H5N1 avian flu strain is expected to begin at the end of this year, Taiwan will produce between 60,000 and 80,000 doses of the vaccine per month from the end of this year.
Several other countries worldwide are working to develop vaccines that could be used against a pandemic flu strain.
The successful tests came after 17 months of research, starting from "ground zero" because the island did not have previous experience in the field before, said Pele Chong, who leads the vaccine development program at the NHRI.
If a pandemic bird flu strain emerges, experts have predicted it could take six months before inoculations such as the one Taiwan is developing could be adjusted to provide full protection.
However, vaccines that defend against the existing H5N1 bird flu virus are expected to provide a lesser degree of immunity. The virus remains hard for humans to catch, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that passes easily among people, potentially igniting a pandemic.
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