The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines — 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca drug — arrived in Taiwan yesterday morning, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said.
The vaccines were flown to Taiwan by Korean Air and arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 10:21am, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center.
“After being cleared by customs, the vaccines have been transported to a designated cold storage center,” Chen said.
“The vaccines are in multidose vials containing 10 doses per bottle, and are being stored in a refrigerated environment of 2°C to 8°C,” he said.
AstraZeneca provided the vaccines under a contract for the purchase of a total of 10 million doses, Chen said, adding that they did not come from the COVAX global distribution platform as some local media had reported.
People are advised to get two doses of the vaccine for better protection, as clinical trials have shown that its efficacy is about 71 percent at 22 days after the first dose, and could increase to 81 percent when the interval between the two doses is 12 weeks, Chen said.
“The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in Taiwan has recommended that the interval between the two doses be at least eight weeks,” he said.
The vaccines will first be offered to healthcare workers, he added.
Front-line healthcare workers who are taking care or conducting tests on confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients would be offered the vaccines first, followed by those who might be indirectly exposed to COVID-19 patients, and lastly, other healthcare personnel, Chen said.
The center plans to offer the first batch of vaccines to 117,000 healthcare workers who are most at risk of infection to build a stronger first line of defense against COVID-19, he said.
“Receiving the first batch of vaccines is very meaningful for Taiwan, because if the front-line healthcare workers at Taoyuan General Hospital had been vaccinated earlier, the cluster infection [from January to last month] would not have occurred,” he said.
Asked if the vaccines could be administered next week, as the Food and Drug Administration had said COVID-19 vaccines with emergency use authorization could be offered as early as seven days after arriving in Taiwan if all required information is provided, Chen said that it would be unlikely.
As it is the first batch of the vaccine to arrive in Taiwan, the review process would be conducted more carefully and would take more time, he said.
CECC specialist advisory panel convener Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said that people who have severe allergic reactions to vaccines or to certain types of drugs are advised to not get vaccinated.
People who have just been vaccinated are advised to stay at the healthcare facility for a while to observe whether they might have any allergic reactions, he said.
As the first group of people to be vaccinated would be healthcare workers, they should be able to find medical assistance easily, he added.
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