Seven large temporary COVID-19 vaccination stations for children were set up by the central government in the six special municipalities on Wednesday to ramp up youth vaccination rates.
The stations offer a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11, either by appointment or walk-in service.
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced the policy on Monday and stressed that the vaccines would not come from stocks allocated to local governments.
Although the policy is intended to offer another option for those who could not get an appointment for their child at a healthcare facility or at school, the policy was not well received among the six special municipalities, even sparking political arguments.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) said the policy was “idiotic,” because vaccinations had already been arranged at schools and healthcare facilities, and it would only increase the burden on local governments if parents cancel appointments.
He said the central government should not have made the “stupid decision” just to “do grandiose things to impress people” when there is no demand and it would burden a stressed-out healthcare system.
Ko said the CECC should have announced the policy earlier, and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) said he did not know about it until he saw the CECC’s daily news conference. This was not the first time during the pandemic that local governments had been informed of policies by surprise, Hou said.
Hou since last month has criticized the central government for not listening to his suggestions about COVID-19 control, saying his city government was well prepared and had taken the lead in several policies, including at-home care for confirmed cases, shortening home isolation and recognizing a positive rapid test result as a confirmed case.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Thursday said the central government’s hasty decision disrupted local governments, and that it was “robbing Peter to pay Paul” by redirecting vaccine doses meant for cities and counties to the stations for children.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said the stations fulfill a valuable role by making it easier for children to get vaccinated.
The CECC published statistics showing that Taipei’s vaccination rate among children aged five to 11 — 26.6 percent — was the lowest among the six municipalities as of Tuesday.
The center responded to the KMT by saying 904,600 Pfizer vaccine doses for children had been distributed to local governments as of Wednesday, which can cover more than 95 percent of the eligible recipients in most cities and counties.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on Friday published a promotional video showing seven of its local government heads visiting children’s vaccination sites, ending with information about the seven large stations.
The opposition parties have dismissed the vaccination stations as a DPP political stunt with the year-end local elections in mind, but data released on Friday showed that 7,802 children had received a vaccine at one of the seven stations as of 5pm that day, and 20,662 children have received shots at the stations since Wednesday.
Although the local and central governments often do not see eye to eye on COVID-19 policies and methods, most people care more about having coherent and comprehensible policies, as well as easy access to vaccines, test kits and medicines.
Rather than pointing fingers or claiming credit for who thought of a policy first, the public would benefit much more if local and central governments put aside political calculations, negotiate rationally and focus on executing clear policies based on accurate data.
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