Taiwan approves second COVID booster dose, infections yet to peak

April 22, 2022 - 9:58 AM
People, wearing face masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), wait at a food stall in Taipei, Taiwan April 19, 2022. (Reuters/Annabelle Chih)

Taiwan’s government has approved a second COVID-19 booster vaccine dose for those 65 and older, and third boosters for the immunocompromised, as it looks to step up its fight against a spike in domestic infections that has yet to peak.

While Taiwan is dealing with a rise in local cases, the numbers overall remain small – 15,544 since Jan. 1 – and just four people have died, with more than 99% of those infected reporting either minor or no symptoms.

Taiwan’s Centres for Disease Control said late Wednesday it had approved second booster shots for the elderly, as well as residents of long-term care facilities.

People with compromised immune systems, including dialysis patients and those who have received organ transplants, are approved for third booster shots, it added.

Those getting their second or third booster should get them at least five months after their last shot, and can choose among the Moderna Inc MRNA.O, Pfizer PFE.N/BioNTech 22UAy.DE, Taiwan-made Medigen 6547.TWO or Novavax NVAX.O brands, it said.

Taiwan has yet to receive any Novavax vaccines.

South Korea has approved a second booster shot for people over 60 and Singapore has said a second booster dose is planned for those 80 and older.

About 80% of Taiwan’s 23 million people are now double vaccinated and almost 60% have had a first booster dose, while mask-wearing mandates continue.

The government has warned that a further rise in cases is expected, driven by the more infectious Omicron variant, but is pursuing a policy of living with the virus to limit the impact on the economy, rather than lockdowns.

Speaking at his daily news briefing on Thursday, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, who has predicted 10,000 daily cases by the end of the month, said the peak of the current wave had yet to be reached.

Taiwan has reported 43,243 infections since the pandemic began more than two years ago, and 856 deaths.

—Reporting by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle