CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan’s first-dose COVID-19 vaccination rate exceeds 50%

Over 50 percent of people in Taiwan have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, six months after the rollout began on March 22, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Thursday.

As of 10 a.m. on Thursday, just over 11.76 million people in Taiwan had gotten their first vaccine shot, which is 50.16 percent of Taiwan's population of 23.45 million, according to data from the CECC and the Department of Household Registration.

But only around 1.82 million people, or 7.7 percent of the population, have received the two doses needed to be fully vaccinated.

Taiwan began its COVID-19 vaccine rollout on March 22, though take-up was low in the beginning. At the time, Taiwan had reported fewer than 1,100 COVID-19 cases, most of which were imported, and there had been no widespread community transmission of the disease.

People's eagerness to get vaccinated soared after Taiwan saw a surge of domestic COVID-19 cases in mid-May, and with the aid of vaccine donations from Japan and the United States, the number of people who were able to get their first shot grew quickly in July.

On July 4, Taiwan's first-dose coverage of the COVID-19 vaccine passed 10 percent. It passed 20 percent on July 17 and 30 percent on July 29, CECC data shows.

The number of doses administered slowed in August due to a shortage of vaccines. Around 40 percent of the population had gotten their first dose by Aug. 24.

With vaccine shipments arriving more steadily in September and the beginning of the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech on Wednesday, Taiwan's first-dose coverage finally surpassed 50 percent on Thursday.

Nearly 65 percent of people who got the first dose received the AstraZeneca vaccine, 29 percent got the Moderna vaccine, and around six percent opted for the locally-developed vaccine produced by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp., CECC data shows.

The shipment of Moderna vaccine doses donated by the United States. CNA file photo

Also on Thursday, CECC spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (???) said that going forward, the CECC will likely expand eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by age, in descending order.

In Taiwan, children aged 12-17 have been given first priority for the vaccine, followed by people aged 18-22, seniors 65 years old and over, and people aged 40 and over who suffer from serious or rare illnesses or injuries.

When more vaccine doses of the brand arrive, Chuang said that it will be given to adults under 40 years old who suffer from serious or rare illnesses or injuries. Eligibility will then be expanded by age, from older people to younger people, he said.

Meanwhile, CECC official Lo Yi-chun (???) announced on Thursday guidelines for self-paid COVID-19 antibody tests, which were not previously open to the public.

City and county health authorities are in charge of designating which medical institutions are allowed to conduct these tests and how much they cost, Lo said, and these institutions can only use test kits approved by Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration.

The institutions should explain thoroughly how the tests are conducted and what the results mean to recipients, and the final test report should contain information on what types of antibodies were included in the test, which test kit was used, and the results, Lo said.

The main purpose of an antibody test is to determine whether a person had been infected with COVID-19 in the past, Lo added.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel