Taiwan’s Health Minister Lowers Expectations on Vaccine Passports

Taiwan’s Health Minister Lowers Expectations on Vaccine Passports
Photo Credit: CNA

What you need to know

Taiwan’s health minister suggests that the government is not easing restrictions by rolling out vaccine passports any time soon.

Vaccine passports are regarded as the key to reopening economies without risking spreading Covid-19, but Taiwan’s health minister said it may be too early to ease restrictions by rolling out a version of its own.

The concept of a government-issued document is designed to allow the holder to travel internationally and visit spaces like gyms and concert halls.

Chen Shih-chung made this statement after Taiwan received the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday from the COVAX program, a global initiative designed to ensure fair vaccine distribution. The batch, containing 117,000 AstraZeneca doses will be used as the first of two doses required for the same number of people.

While Taiwan will soon be vaccinating its population, the minister urged Taiwanese not to let their guard down. “After being vaccinated, people might think they should be allowed free movement, restrictions have to be loosened,” Chen said. “This can lead to a second wave of infections.”

To restart the economy, many Asian countries, including Thailand and South Korea, are mulling over issuing vaccine passports.

While Taiwan’s government is open to studying standards on the passports, Chen said it may be too early to adopt the tool to ease restrictions, including lowering the number of days for mandatory quarantine for travelers.

Vaccine passports involve recording the type of vaccine the holder receives, the time of vaccination, and other complicated information, he said. They can also be forged.

Health experts around the world are also concerned. Some said vaccine passports could give false assurances and called upon policymakers to resist calls for their rollout.

Chen said experts at the Central Epidemic Command Center prefer to have travelers present a negative PCR test result and test for antibodies upon arrival.

“We now know that antibody and virus can co-exist in the body,” he said. “This is the biggest concern for the rollout of vaccine passports.”

But Chen said easing restrictions may be possible, after more than 60% of Taiwan’s population are vaccinated. By then, the government could try to put together a list of countries by risk level and vaccination rate and allow people to travel to and from low-risk countries.

According to a poll by Global Views, among Taiwanese above the age of 18, only around 60% are willing to be vaccinated, lower than the numbers of other countries. 54.8% hope to receive Taiwanese-developed vaccines, 31.8% hope to receive vaccines developed in Europe and the United States, and only 1.3% are willing to receive Chinese vaccines.

Mochou Ko, the deputy chairperson for Taiwan Tourism Development Association, advised the government to open bilateral talks with countries that Taiwan rely heavily on in tourism and trade, including Japan and Thailand.

READ NEXT: Taiwan Secures 20 Million Vaccine Doses, First To Arrive This Quarter

TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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