The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (hereinafter referred to as Taiwan CDC) of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) held a press conference called “Get a Flu Shot for Health and Happiness” on October 2, 2023, to kick off the 2023 government-funded influenza vaccination campaign. The press conference was attended by Minister of Health and Welfare Hsueh Jui-Yuan, Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Wang Pi-Sheng, Taiwan CDC Director-General Chuang Jen-Hsiang, epidemic prevention ambassador Chen Shu-Fang, and a mother and her two sons. Minister Hsueh, Deputy Minister Wang, ambassador Chen, and the mother and her sons were all vaccinated at the press conference. They encouraged eligible people to get vaccinated according to the vaccination schedule as soon as possible to build full protection before the flu season and protect themselves and their families.
Minister Hsueh said that the government continued to provide 6.98 million doses of the quadrivalent government-funded influenza vaccine in 2023, covering 29.6% of the entire population. Over the past three years, all citizens have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and have established good hygiene habits to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. However, with the easing of relevant epidemic prevention measures, the influenza virus becomes active in the community. He urged eligible people to get vaccinated as influenza vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza. The protection of a flu shot will last for around one year; therefore, it is recommended that members of the public get vaccinated once a year.
Deputy Minister Wang said that, in addition to the influenza vaccine, people should not forget the threat of other respiratory diseases, pneumococcal disease, and COVID-19. He added that, starting October, the government will expand eligibility for pneumococcal vaccination to include people over 65 and older and that the XBB.1.5 COVID-19 vaccine became available on September 26. The three vaccines can be administered at the same visit at different sites on the body or at any interval to build three types of protection. This can effectively reduce the risk of complications caused by infection among the elderly.
Ambassador Chen said that at 84 years of age, she especially wanted to participate in the event and get a flu shot this year. Influenza vaccination will allow her to maintain a strong immune system at work as a performing artist and when caring for disadvantaged groups. She also reminded people to remain vigilant in the post-pandemic era, especially during this flu season. The elderly are more likely to develop influenza complications from the virus. Therefore, she called on the public to come together to get vaccinated to stay healthy and happy.
Taiwan CDC pointed out that this year’s seasonal influenza vaccination campaign would be launched in two stages. The first stage will begin on October 2, and the second stage on November 1. People aged 50 to 64 years old who do not have high-risk chronic diseases are eligible to get vaccinated in the second stage while the rest of the target groups are included in the first stage. Influenza vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza, and the average protection after vaccination can reach about 30-80%; the protection against hospitalization due to influenza is about 41%, and the protection against severe illness can reach up to 82%.
Taiwan CDC also reminds people that there are about 4,000 contracted vaccination clinics and hospitals across Taiwan. People can find a vaccination site near them by visiting the website of their local health department, the Taiwan CDC Anti-Flu website (https://antiflu.cdc.gov.tw/), or the Disease Control Butler, or calling the Communicable Disease Reporting and Consultation Hotline at 1922. People should call the vaccination site to make an appointment before visiting the site to ensure that they can be vaccinated as planned so that their wait time in the line can be reduced. People should bring their National Health Insurance card and any relevant documents, such as the Children’s Health Booklet or Maternal Health Booklet, to get vaccinated. They should also wear a mask, maintain a safe distance from others, and practice good hand hygiene when waiting to get vaccinated.