Update 2021-07-05 — Actually got my second shot. Details in new post.
Update 2021-06-21 — I got a second notice from NTUH. I think online appointments will open 6/23. Details at the end.
As promised, I’m writing to update you all on the progress of getting a self-paid vaccine in Taiwan (see my earlier post). I received a text message from NTU Hospital telling me not to come to my second shot appointment scheduled for Monday (6/21), and that the second shots for self-paid vaccines will be given at an interval of 10-12 weeks instead of 8 weeks. Details below the break.
A lot has changed since Taiwan first implemented the self-paid vaccine program in April. Most notable: the first sustained outbreak of community transmission of COVID-19 to take place in Taiwan. Fingers crossed, we seem to be on the tail end of it, with daily cases under 200 for the past three days and almost all confirmed cases being caught by contact tracing. More good news, is that millions of doses of vaccines have become available in the last few weeks, and more are expected in the coming months.
If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you download the official Taiwan contact tracing app (iOS, Android). Setting it up only takes a few minutes and it will notify you if you’ve been in close contact with any confirmed cases using bluetooth proximity measurements (Focus Taiwan). It does not collect any location data. There is now an English version for iOS.
With the outbreak of community spread, the government understandably suspended the self-paid vaccine program back in mid May. Since then, I have heard conflicting reports about whether people who received their first shot in April or May would still be able to get their second shot. Besides these conflicting reports, we had no hard data, since no one was scheduled to get their second self-paid vaccine until this week.
For me personally, I got my first shot (of Astrazeneca) at NTU Hospital on 4/26 and before I left they gave me an appointment for the second shot on 6/21. Ever since the self-paid vaccines were cancelled, I have been anxiously checking my appointment on the NTUH website. It was still there, but I had no idea if that meant I would actually be able to receive my shot that day. This questions was answered by an automated text message from NTUH yesterday:
Here’s the original text and then an automatic translation into English:
Google Translation (lightly edited):
The National Taiwan University Hospital informs you that the second dose of the novel coronavirus vaccine was originally reserved for you. Due to government changes, the first dose can only be administered 10-12 weeks after the first dose. The appointment on the same day is invalid. Please do not come to the hospital. Please pay attention to relevant announcements for follow-up procedures. National Taiwan University Hospital cares about you!
I’m obviously not thrilled to have to wait another 2-4 weeks for my second shot, but I understand that there are people who need the vaccine more than I do. And honestly, I am relieved to hear anything official about this, because it hopefully means that there is a serious plan about what to do about the half-vaccinated self-paid people. From what I have read, a twelve week interval may actually be the efficacy sweet spot for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
To be clear, I have no idea how widespread this policy is. It could be just NTUH, or it could be nationwide. I look forward to your experience with the self-paid vaccines in the comments or by contacting me directly.
So that’s it! As of right now, my original 6/21 appointment is still showing up in the NTUH system. Hopefully I will hear more from them soon. I will of course update you all again if I get a confirmed appointment and when I actually get my shot.
In the meantime, for my Taiwan friends, mask up and stay safe! If we do our social distancing and contract tracing right, we won’t have to wait for the vaccine end this current outbreak in Taiwan.
Today I got a text message from NTUH:
National Taiwan University Hospital informs you that if you have not received the second dose of AZ vaccine, please make an appointment online from 6/23. The Central Epidemic Command Center must adjust the time for the second dose of AZ vaccination to be 10-12 weeks apart from the first dose. Therefore, please note that the appointment date must meet the central regulations. National Taiwan University Hospital cares about you!
It looks like the web form for booking appointments will open Wednesday 6/23. It seems like they want me to wait until at least 10 weeks after my first shot for the actual appointment. I’ll post another update here if I am successful.
While I have your attention: donate blood!
There’s a critical blood shortage in Taiwan right now, if you’re eligible, DONATE BLOOD! It’s hard to figure out the the chinese-langauge websites, but foreigners are eligible and there is a google map of all the donation sites with their hours here. No appointment is required!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a public health official. I am speaking based only on my personal experience.