CORONAVIRUS/Kaohsiung hospital official punished over THSR staff vaccine controversy

The deputy superintendent of Kaohsiung Municipal United Hospital (KMUH) has been given an admonition for administering COVID-19 vaccine doses to 42 ineligible individuals who work for the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR).

The punishment was meted out after an evaluation meeting on Friday morning, preceded by several review meetings after the incident, KMUH told CNA on Saturday.

The hospital's superintendent has also asked the hospital to punish him for his failure to fulfill his supervisory responsibility, but this request will still have to be approved by the Department of Health at the Kaohsiung City Government.

On Sep. 22, 42 THSR employees, who were not in the priority category for obtaining vaccination, went to KMUH and demanded to get second doses of the Moderna vaccines by claiming to be in the third category -- frontline workers with high risk contact -- though they were actually in the seventh category.

After being refused by the hospital staff due to ineligibility, the THSR employees engaged in a dispute that lasted three hours, resulting in a standoff. The hospital eventually caved with the approval from the deputy superintendent, according to local media.

KMUH was not alone in dealing with ineligible THSR employees who requested second doses of vaccines. Kaohsiung Municipal Siaogang Hospital reportedly refused more than 10 THSR employees who wanted to get vaccinated, which is still under investigation.

The Department of Health of New Taipei City and Taichung City have both confirmed that some THSR employees tried to get their second shots from the hospitals in the regions but were eventually sent away due to being ineligible.

In response, the THSR issued an announcement on Oct. 1 that employees are not supposed to break the law or use false pretenses to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations otherwise they might face punishment.

According to the Central Epidemic Command Center, as of Saturday, approximately 3.45 million people in Taiwan had received their first Moderna shot, but only 1.37 million had been fully vaccinated with two doses.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the two Moderna vaccine doses be given 28 days apart, and that the interval between the two shots can be delayed by up to 12 weeks if necessary.

The latest shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Taiwan early Saturday, comprising 1.13 million doses and bringing the total number Taiwan has received to roughly 6.24 million. The latest batch will expire on March 2, 2022.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel