Taiwan yesterday received a shipment of 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the US, obtaining its largest single batch of vaccines since the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year.
A cargo plane of Taiwanese national carrier China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) carrying the Moderna Inc vaccines landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at about 4:30pm, after leaving Memphis, Tennessee, early on Saturday, US time.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) and American Institute in Taiwan Director Brent Christensen were at the airport to welcome the plane.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
The vaccines were transported to a cold chain logistics center, where they would be inspected by health authorities before being cleared for distribution, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said.
The US on June 6 pledged to send 750,000 Moderna vaccine doses to Taiwan and on Saturday said it was increasing the number to 2.5 million.
Chen, who heads the center, told a news conference earlier yesterday that vaccine eligibility would likely be expanded to cover pregnant women and a wider age group, as more doses than planned have arrived.
Eligibility for the Moderna vaccine is currently limited to the top three groups in the vaccination priority list.
Pregnant women would not be forced to choose a certain brand of vaccine and they should discuss with their doctor which vaccine would be the best for them, Chen said.
The CECC would also consider adding more occupations to the seventh priority group — “essential workers for maintaining national security and normal societal functions” — as well as including people aged 65 or older in the vaccination program.
“We are grateful to the US government for giving 2.5 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan,” Chen said. “The US lending a helping hand in our time of need will allow us to accelerate vaccination.”
Taiwan and the US last year signed a memorandum of understanding on health cooperation and hopefully can continue to cooperate on healthcare issues, he added.
Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is the CECC’s spokesman, said that more than 1.5 million people in Taiwan have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose, for an overall vaccine coverage of about 6.4 percent.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices would meet this week to decide eligibility requirements for the Moderna vaccine, he said.
Separately, Chuang said the center has received reports of 18 people who died after receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, bringing the total to 67 deaths, 55 of whom were people aged 75 or older.
About 1.44 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered, including about 314,000 doses to people aged 75 or older, he said.
Autopsies on nine of the deceased found no links between their vaccination and death, he added.
Additional reporting by CNA
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