Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON
Representative to the US Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) on Friday said she is working to guarantee that shipments of the US-made Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Taiwan next month, in light of a mounting number of domestic infections.
Hsiao said that as demand for vaccines in Taiwan was initially low, she had been focused on helping to procure vaccines for the country’s diplomatic allies.
However, due to the spike in domestic infections, she has been in contact with US vaccine makers to ensure Taiwan’s orders are delivered on time, Hsiao said.
There are two COVID-19 vaccines that Taiwan has purchased through US channels: the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has begun arriving in Taiwan, and the Moderna vaccine, which is to arrive next month, she said.
Taiwan has signed contracts to purchase 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, 10 million AstraZeneca doses and 4.76 million doses of unspecified brands through the COVAX program, which has so far allocated 1.02 million AstraZeneca shots to Taiwan.
A locally developed vaccine is expected to be available in July.
The Central Epidemic Command Center last month said that it expected the Moderna vaccine to arrive this month.
To date, Taiwan has taken delivery of 117,000 vaccine doses purchased directly from AstraZeneca, which are to expire on June 15, as well as 199,200 doses of the same brand supplied through COVAX, which are to expire on May 31.
As of Thursday, only 151,997 people had received their first AstraZeneca shot, due to concerns over a rare blood clotting side-effect.
By Friday 186,149 vaccine doses had been administered, the center said.
Hsiao also responded to news this week that Taiwan’s diplomatic ally Honduras was considering opening a trade office in China in a bid to acquire Chinese COVID-19 vaccines.
She said the US is aware that several of Taiwan’s allies face vaccine shortages, and of China’s efforts to use “vaccine diplomacy” to pressure them into switching allegiance.
The hope is that when the US has reached a certain stage in its own vaccination campaign, it will begin releasing excess doses to help international partners, she said.
Taiwan’s locally developed COVID-19 vaccines could become part of a US initiative to expand global supplies, Hsiao said, although she acknowledged that this would only likely occur in the long term.
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