The Taipei-based Good Liver Clinic is to be fined NT$2 million (US$72,028) after giving free COVID-19 vaccine shots to people not in groups eligible to receive them, Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) said yesterday.
The Zhongshan District (中山)-based clinic was removed from the city’s list of vaccination venues and health officials would be investigated for giving 1,113 doses to the clinic, Huang told an afternoon news conference at Taipei City Hall.
The Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) on Tuesday in an exclusive story citing an anonymous tip reported that a Taipei clinic was doling out unused vaccines.
People in a line at the clinic on Tuesday told the Liberty Times that they were waiting to be vaccinated.
The clinic was inoculating anyone with a National Health Insurance (NHI) card regardless of vaccination priority, one person told the Liberty Times.
Clinic employees said that the people in line were there for medical tests.
At 10:30pm, an announcement, apparently by a clinic employee, said that the clinic was “out of vaccines” and that people in line should leave.
Prior to yesterday, only three groups of people in Taipei were eligible to receive jabs, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is spokesman for the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), told a daily briefing.
Giving NHI-covered COVID-19 vaccines to people who are not eligible is a breach of the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), an offense that can be punished with a fine of NT$300,000 to NT$2 million, Chuang said.
At the briefing, the CECC announced additional COVID-19 vaccine priority groups, which include about 3.53 million people in seven categories.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said the revised list of priority groups was finalized at an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
The top three priority groups have only a few minor changes, Chen said, adding that frontline police officers who might be exposed to people under home quarantine or home isolation have been added to the second priority group.
Vaccine production, storage and logistics personnel have also been added to the second priority group, Chen said.
As local governments have some AstraZeneca doses remaining, people in the second and third priority groups in cities and counties other than Taipei and New Taipei City are eligible to get shots, effective immediately, he said.
When the 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by Japan become available next week, people in the top six priority groups would be eligible to be vaccinated, he said.
“The major changes to the list are the fifth and sixth priority groups,” Chen said.
The fifth group is caregivers and residents at long-term care facilities; caregivers and care recipients of at-home or community-based long-term care institutions and disability services; workers at other institutions, including prisons; and people on dialysis, or about 467,000 people, he said.
The sixth priority group is people aged 75 or older, or Aborigines aged 65 or older, which covers about 1.5 million people, Chen said, adding that this group is at higher risk of serious complications and death from COVID-19 infection.
The seventh group is “essential workers for maintaining national security and social operations,” which comprises many occupations, he said.
The CECC has asked authorities to submit detailed criteria — which would need to be approved — for who should be eligible for group seven, he said.
The group includes military personnel; non-military personnel at military establishments and national security agencies; non-frontline police officers; military police; essential workers at key national facilities; transportation, storage and logistics workers; teachers and staff at schools below high-school level; and preschool and nursery caregivers, he said, adding that about 860,000 people would be in group seven.
The first priority group includes registered healthcare workers and other non-healthcare workers at healthcare facilities, which covers about 506,000 people; while the second priority group is central and local government disease prevention personnel, covering about 139,000 people.
The third priority group is frontline workers with high infection risk exposure, such as flight or ship crew members, and disease prevention taxi drivers, covering about 61,000 people.
Only about 2,000 people are in the fourth priority group, mainly diplomats, athletes or contestants representing Taiwan.
Additional reporting by Chiu Chih-jou, Lin Hui-chin and CNA
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