Taipei, Dec. 2 (CNA) Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Thursday Taiwan would begin its rollout of COVID-19 booster shots at noon, allowing people in certain high-risk categories to get a third vaccine dose.
Speaking to reporters before a legislative hearing, Chen said the booster shots will first be given to people in categories one to three of the COVID-19 vaccine priority list who received their second shot at least five months ago.
The three categories include medical workers, epidemic prevention workers in central and local government, and people at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their jobs.
Chen added that central government officials would be excluded for the time being unless such individuals have to frequent hospitals and government quarantine centers.
As of Dec. 7, 60,000 people will be eligible for a third dose, Chen said, adding that the Moderna brand will be offered at this stage of the rollout.
Those eligible for a booster shot do not have to go through the government's 1922 vaccine platform and can make appointments directly with hospitals offering the vaccine, Chen said.
Due to concerns over the Omicron variant, the interval between the second and third dose is being shortened from the six months recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to five months, Chen said.
The Omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa, was designated as a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26 and has since been detected in over 20 countries.
Due to the variant's mutations, there are concerns it could be more transmissible compared to previous strains of the virus and that it may reinfect those previously infected with COVID-19 more easily.