The list of workers required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by next month is to be expanded, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), said yesterday, as 10 new imported cases were reported.
The CECC on Sunday announced that workers at 24 types of establishment supervised by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Health and Welfare would be required to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 1, so they should receive their second vaccine dose by Dec. 17.
After the policy was criticized for forcing people to vaccinate, Chen yesterday restated the rules and explained that workers at the 24 types of establishment had already been asked to receive their first dose of a vaccine when they reopened, so the latest policy is only enhancing the previous rule by asking the workers to become fully vaccinated.
“We are not forcing you, but ‘asking’ you [to get fully vaccinated], and if you can’t get vaccinated, then you can use tests to replace vaccination,” Chen said.
People with a COVID-19 vaccine exemption certificate issued by a doctor must provide a negative COVID-19 test result — from an antigen rapid test, at-home rapid test or polymerase chain reaction test — each week, the CECC said.
The main reason for getting vaccinated is to protect oneself, and to reduce the social and medical burden, but it is also linked to the safety of society as a whole, as it would become safer if more people are willing to shoulder the responsibility to get vaccinated, Chen said.
The CECC is evaluating the infection risks at other establishments and more would likely be added to the list of workers who are required to be fully vaccinated, he said.
The establishments more at risk of cluster infections would be considered initially, and they could be announced later this week, he added.
Meanwhile, the CECC reported that while no new local infections or deaths were reported, 10 new imported cases had been confirmed — people who had arrived from Cambodia, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Thailand, Vietnam and the Netherlands.
Chen said that 177,580 doses of vaccine were administered over the weekend, bringing the nation’s first-dose vaccination rate to 78.17 percent and full vaccination rate to 60.52 percent.
Asked if the CECC might consider further easing restrictions, as the full vaccination rate had reached its previous goal of 60 percent by the end of the year, Chen said the CECC would still need a couple of weeks to observe the impact of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, especially whether it causes more severe illnesses and deaths.
While about 13,000 to 14,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered per day last month, Chen said that 34,104 doses are due to expire today, 5,712 doses on Thursday and 45,318 doses on Sunday.
Chen encouraged people to get vaccinated and use up the expiring doses, adding that a variety of gift options are being offered to those receiving a Moderna jab this week.
Asked to comment on a case reported by the Taipei Department of Health on Sunday, in which a married couple in Taipei allegedly lied about having lost their vaccination record and tried to receive additional doses of vaccine at many healthcare facilities by threatening workers, resulting in each receiving four doses of a mix of three brands, Chen said that the couple likely breached Article 24 of the Medical Act (醫療法), which stipulates that to protect the safety of patients, no person shall hinder medical practices by means of violence, coercion, intimidation, public insults or other illegal methods.
The article states that healthcare facilities can call the police to restrain and remove offenders, or refer them to judicial authorities for investigation, he said, adding that Article 106 of the act stipulates the punishments, which include imprisonment or a fine.
Chen urged people to cooperate with healthcare workers when getting vaccinated and facilities are suggested to call the police should similar cases occur.
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