The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) announced on Sept. 26 that, in response to the continued spread of COVID-19, Moderna’s XBB.1.5-adapted COVID-19 vaccine is now available for people aged 65 and over in the first phase of the rollout. The vaccination program for the XBB.1.5 vaccine is launched to lower the risk of severe symptoms and death following COVID-19 infection, protect the health of people, and reduce the threat posed by subvariants of the virus.
To kick off the vaccination program, Taiwan CDC held a press conference called “Get Vaccinated Together for Better Protection.” The event was attended by Taiwan CDC Director-General Chuang Jen-Hsiang, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) convener Dr. Lee Ping-Ing, Taiwan Urbani Foundation Chairman Chang Feng-Yee, Taiwan CDC consultant Lin Ting, Taiwan CDC Deputy Director-General Tseng Shu-Huai, and epidemic prevention ambassador Wang Man-Chiao.
During the event, Chairman Chang, consultant Lin, and ambassador Wang, who are eligible for the vaccine, rolled up their sleeves, received the XBB.1.5-adapted vaccine, and encouraged those who are eligible to get vaccinated to improve their immune response.
Director-General Chuang said that, according to statistics, since May, people aged 65 and over have accounted for 78 percent of COVID-19 cases with complications. Also, the majority of those who died or experienced complications had underlying chronic diseases or had not received three COVID-19 vaccine doses. With the increasing number of cases in Europe and the U.S. and with the XBB subvariants being the dominant strains, Taiwan CDC advises members of the public to receive the vaccine for better protection. Additionally, as fall and winter signal higher circulation of respiratory diseases, those who are eligible for the XBB.1.5-adapted vaccine can also consider taking influenza and pneumococcal vaccines.
During the press conference, ambassador Wang shared her COVID-19 vaccination experience. She said that as she came into contact with many people due to filming, she and her friends got vaccinated together to avoid possible work disruptions and illness. She has received four COVID-19 vaccine doses. After each vaccination, she reminded herself to drink plenty of fluids, and her children also kept a close eye on her health status. She didn’t develop any significant symptoms or side effects following the vaccinations.
Convener Lee, Chairman Chang, and consultant Lin answered frequently asked questions about vaccination at the press conference. The three public health experts also urged the public to get vaccinated according to the vaccination schedule and regardless of the brands of vaccines previously received or whether they have received a COVID-19 vaccine. They said that those who have recently been infected with COVID-19 should wait 12 weeks (84 days) before getting vaccinated. In addition, the XBB.1.5, influenza, and pneumococcal vaccines can be administered during the same visit and at different sites on the body or at any interval. If the three vaccines are administered at the same time, two injection sites on the same arm should be separated by at least 2.5 cm.
Taiwan CDC explained the schedule of the XBB.1.5 vaccination program for different groups as follows: 1. In the first week beginning Sept. 26, people aged 65 and over will be prioritized for vaccination; 2. Beginning Oct. 2, eligibility will be expanded to healthcare personnel; 3. Tentatively, beginning Oct. 9, eligibility will be expanded to the general public. The schedule may be adjusted based on the effectiveness of the vaccination program.
Taiwan CDC reminds those seeking vaccination to bring their National Health Insurance card or other proof of identity and COVID-19 Vaccination Record card to their appointment. They should inform the doctor of their vaccination history during their pre-vaccination assessment. Taiwan CDC also reminds those receiving their vaccine shot should observe for side effects and symptoms, drink plenty of fluids, rest as much as possible, and seek assistance from family members if needed. Those who experience a fever lasting more than 48 hours or severe allergic reactions, including difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, dizziness, fast heartbeat, and skin rash, are advised to seek medical attention to determine the cause.