PINGTUNG (Taiwan News) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced its latest COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy during a press conference on Monday (May 31).
The CECC aims to prioritize three groups: healthcare workers (Group 1), central and local government epidemic prevention personnel (Group 2), and frontline workers with a high risk of COVID-19 contact (Group 3) in Taipei and New Taipei following the arrival of 410,000 doses of the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine and 150,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
On May 27, 150,000 AZ jabs were first distributed to Group 1. The remaining 260,000 shots were given out to this group nationwide on May 31, as well as to those in Group 2 and Group 3 in Taipei and New Taipei City. The Twin Cities (雙北, "double north") received the most shots, as they are hotspots in Taiwan’s current outbreak.
The nation has halted self-paid vaccines to the public and only allows a total of 10 priority groups to receive publicly funded vaccines. Only after those in the first three groups are fully vaccinated can the other groups receive shots in consecutive order.
The 10 approved priority groups are:
- Group 1: Healthcare workers
- Group 2: Central and local government epidemic prevention personnel
- Group 3: Frontline workers with a high risk coming into contact with COVID-19
- Group 4: Those who need to travel abroad
- Group 5: Law enforcement officers and firefighters
- Group 6: Volunteers, long-term caretakers, and care recipients at social welfare organizations
- Group 7: National security personnel
- Group 8: Adults ages 65 and above
- Group 9: Adults ages 19 to 65 with life-threatening conditions, rare diseases, or a history of serious illness
- Group 10: Adults between the ages of 50 and 64
According to a CECC press release, Taiwan has secured 20 million vaccine doses from overseas and pre-purchased 10 million doses of domestically produced ones. As of May 31, 461,647 people had been vaccinated in the country.
During Wednesday's (June 2) press conference, CECC Health Minister Chen Shih-Chung (陳時中) said that the society-wide effect of the vaccine will start showing after 20 percent of the population is vaccinated, based on the experiences of other countries. He added that "With 40 percent of the population vaccinated, Taiwan can achieve a certain level of protection, while 60 percent will allow the country to have good control over the virus."
The health minister stated that with the public’s cooperation and the recruitment of sufficient numbers of medical workers, the country can reach a high vaccination rate in September. "Taiwan may be able to get 60 percent of the population vaccinated with at least one shot by the end of October" Chen further stated.
However, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-Yi (侯友宜), who was also present at the press conference, said that with the vaccination information the CECC has provided, "it will take until Lunar New Year to achieve herd immunity."
According to National Institute of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology expert Kuo Shu-Chen (郭書辰), to achieve herd immunity, at least 70 to 80 percent of Taiwanese need to be fully vaccinated.
The second batch of AZ vaccines arrived at Taoyuan International Airport on May 19, while the first batch of 150,000 Moderna shots arrived on May 28 and is expected to be distributed within one week.