People aged 50 to 64 are to be temporarily suspended from receiving state-funded influenza vaccines, in order to prioritize more vulnerable groups amid high demand, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.
The flu vaccine, made available from Monday last week, has proven very popular this year, with 2.73 million doses already administered, a usage rate of 45.3 percent, in just 10 days, the agency said.
Based on a recommendation of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, starting today, the program would prioritize people aged 65 or older, and children aged six months to five years, it said.
About 5 million people would be excluded due to the new prioritization policy, but this group in the past did not make up the bulk of people seeking flu shots, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Chih-chung (陳時中) said.
The policy would be rescinded once a sufficient portion of those at high risk has been vaccinated, he said.
The government instituted the priority policy to ensure that members of high-risk groups whose immune systems are often not strong enough to withstand infectious diseases receive the vaccine, committee convener Lee Ping-ying (李秉穎) said.
The program also targets those liable to spread contagions, such as doctors and other medical personnel, as they come into daily contact with patients, he said.
Should doctors or medical personnel fall ill, the entire medical system could be jeopardized, he added.
Due to heightened vigilance from COVID-19, the number of flu cases this year has been low, Lee said, adding that he estimated that infection numbers for the next influenza season would not rise considerably.
Children under the age of six have so far used 235,000 doses, or a usage rate of 20.6 percent, down from 23.8 percent last year and not exceeding a target usage rate of 54.2 percent, CDC data showed.
Those in the age bracket of 50 to 64 have used 740,000 doses, or a usage rate of 14 percent, up from 9.9 percent last year, the data showed.
The CDC also said that flu shots are not restricted to a person’s registered residency, and can be requested in other cities and counties in the nation.
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