The level 2 COVID-19 alert is to be extended until Dec. 13, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday, as it advised people in six high-risk groups to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.
It also recommended that adolescents aged 12 to 17 who had a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine receive a second shot.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the nationwide level 2 alert would remain in place for two more weeks from today.
Photo: Tsai Shu-yuan, Taipei Times
Chen said that during New Year’s events eating and drinking might be allowed in designated areas, while only drinking water would be allowed elsewhere, and revelers would be prohibited from removing their mask to take photographs.
Assigned seating would be mandatory for all indoor events, which must implement contact registration and arrange fixed entrances, where attendees’ temperatures can be taken and hands disinfected, he said.
“Many local government heads have expressed concern over the new emerging Omicron variant [of SARS-CoV-2] in the past two days. As the COVID-19 situation can change rapidly, the restrictions and rules for events would be under rolling review,” he said.
Regarding vaccinations, Chen said that the ministry’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Sunday recommended that fully vaccinated people in six high-risk groups receive a third dose six months or more after their second shot.
The groups include people aged 65 or older, long-term care facility residents and workers, healthcare workers, disease prevention personnel, frontline workers at higher risk of infection and people in the ninth priority group for vaccination.
“Other people, who are 18 years old or older, can evaluate their own risk of infection and vaccination willingness, and receive a booster shot after being assessed by a doctor,” Chen said.
While the center recommends that people receive a dose of the same brand of vaccine as their previous shots, they can choose a dose of a different brand, he said.
Plans for administering the booster shots are still being discussed, but they would be offered after New Year’s Day at the earliest, he added.
The committee also recommended that adolescents aged 12 to 17 who received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and did not experience serious side effects receive a second dose at least 12 weeks apart.
Experts at the meeting referenced COVID-19 case data, the policies for administering mRNA COVID-19 vaccines — such as the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — and cases of myocarditis and pericarditis after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination among adolescents in other countries, as well as individual cases in Taiwan, he said.
The committee said that while myocarditis and pericarditis following mRNA vaccination might be associated with vaccines, with new COVID-19 variants spreading worldwide and the Lunar New Year holiday approaching, it suggested that adolescents receive a second vaccine dose to reduce the risk of imported cases causing local outbreaks.
Chen said the CECC and local health departments would begin planning for campus vaccination, and because schools need time to collect parental consent forms, on-campus vaccinations would likely start from the middle of next month.
He said that 263,101 vaccine doses were administered over the weekend, bringing the nation’s first-dose vaccination rate to 77.7 percent and the full vaccination rate to 55.45 percent.
Citing data from Singapore gathered from May 1 to Oct. 31, Chen said that the death rate of people aged 80 or older was 22 percent among the unvaccinated, 12 percent among the partially vaccinated and 2.5 percent among the fully vaccinated.
The proportion of people who were critically ill or were being closely monitored in intensive care units in the same group was 46 percent among the unvaccinated and 12 percent among the fully vaccinated, he added.
“We now have sufficient supplies of vaccine doses, and vaccines have become accessible to everyone, so we urge people to be vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said, adding that they should not wait for experts to assess the impacts of the Omicron variant.
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