The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is planning to launch an expanded COVID-19 vaccination program next month to reach a full vaccination coverage rate of more than 60 percent by the end of the year, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday.
Chen, who heads the CECC, made the announcement during a question-and-answer session at the legislature in Taipei alongside Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) asked whether the government’s strategy is to achieve “COVID-19 zero” or “to coexist with COVID-19,” as the strategy would affect regulations.
Photo: Su Meng-chuan, Taipei Times
“At present, Taiwan is actually very safe, as border control measures and local contact tracing have been conducted thoroughly, so the goal is to achieve ‘COVID-19 zero,’” Su said.
He said if the COVID-19 situation in Taiwan remains under control and if the virus does not undergo a major mutation, then COVID-19 might gradually become like the seasonal flu and the goal could then be “to coexist with COVID-19.”
“The current goal is to achieve COVID-19 zero, but Taiwan must also be prepared to coexist with COVID-19,” Chen said, adding that the CECC’s measures aim to build “resilience” in disease prevention — finding a balance between levels of restrictions while avoiding pandemic fatigue, and reducing harm to the economy.
Asked by Chiang when the government expects to achieve herd immunity, Chen said that “no one talks about achieving herd immunity nowadays, but rather how vaccination can reduce severe COVID-19 and death. The center’s goal is to achieve a full vaccination coverage rate of more than 60 percent by the end of the year.”
He said the short-term goal is to achieve a first-dose vaccination coverage rate of more than 70 percent and a full vaccination coverage rate of more than 30 percent by the end of this month.
Chiang also asked about the criteria for lowering a nationwide level 2 COVID-19 alert and when the center expects to meet them.
There are a few aspects that must be taken into consideration, Chen said, including the number of new locally transmitted cases with unclear infection sources, the responsiveness of the healthcare system, the full vaccination rate of people aged 65 or older and high-risk people, the public’s compliance level with the guidelines and changes in the global COVID-19 situation.
It is difficult to predict when the alert level would be lowered, but the criteria are being discussed with specialists, he said.
Chiang said that while more than 720,000 people in Taiwan have received the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Taiwanese firm Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp (高端疫苗), the brand is not recognized by the US, which next month is to require international visitors to be vaccinated to enter the nation.
People from Taiwan have not been banned from entering the US in the past year and Taiwan has not been listed as a high-risk area for COVID-19 infection, Chen said, adding that the government would continue negotiating with the US government on the issue.
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