The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday expanded the eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination to the fourth priority group — people who need to travel abroad for special reasons — adding that out-of-pocket vaccines would be available from Wednesday next week.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said although Taiwan’s COVID-19 vaccination program was on Monday expanded to include the top three groups in the priority list, people are still “not enthusiastic” about getting vaccinated.
“Only 1,220 people received a vaccine shot on Tuesday, and a total of 27,113 people have received COVID-19 vaccination” so far, he said.
The fourth priority group refers to people who have been proposed by a competent authority and approved by the CECC as special cases who need to travel, Chen said.
They include diplomats and public-sector expatriates; staff members of foreign representative offices and their family members — given their country of origin offers vaccination to Taiwanese diplomats there under the principle of reciprocity; and athletes or contestants representing the nation.
The group consists of about 5,000 people, Chen said, adding that the number of people in the top four priority groups total about 618,000.
As authorities are listing eligible vaccine recipients to the center, the CECC urged people who have been notified that they are eligible to book a vaccine appointment with a designated hospital in advance and take their National Health Insurance card to get vaccinated.
Chen said the center would also release an additional 10,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for people who need to travel abroad, starting on Wednesday next week.
He said people who need to travel abroad “for business, work, study, medical treatment or humanitarian reasons” can apply for the paid vaccine, but those who are traveling for tourism purposes would not be allowed to apply for the time being.
People who wish to receive a paid vaccination can book an appointment with one of the 31 designated vaccination hospitals that have a travel medicine outpatient clinic, he said.
There is at least one vaccination hospital in each city or county, including the outlying islands.
“They would need to pay the hospital’s registration fee, examination fee and injection fee, but they would not pay the cost of the vaccine,” as they are not allowed to choose the vaccine brand at this time, Chen said.
The vaccine is free of charge also because the recipients are included in the government-funded vaccination program, albeit at a lower priority, so they would only be paying the administrative fees to get vaccinated earlier, he said.
The paid vaccines are not limited to Republic of China citizens, and foreign residents can also apply to receive vaccination, the CECC said.
The center has capped the total administration fees that the hospitals can charge for paid vaccines at NT$600 for medical centers, NT$550 for regional hospitals and NT$500 for district hospitals, Chen said.
“Getting vaccinated is preparing for the future,” he said, adding that while Taiwan does not have local outbreaks, getting vaccinated can provide better protection against COVID-19, as national borders will be gradually opened.
The two doses of the vaccine should be administered at least eight weeks apart and it takes about two weeks for the body to build up immunity after vaccination, so it could be too late to receive a vaccine when national borders open, Chen said, urging eligible vaccine recipients to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Quarantine rules could be eased if Taiwan’s vaccine coverage rate reaches a safe level and the center is working toward reducing the quarantine period for arriving travelers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, Chen said, adding that possible options and standards are still being discussed.
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