Taiwan eases Covid-19 vaccine fears with confirmation of doses from Moderna

Lawrence Chung
·3-min read

Taiwan has secured 5 million doses of US firm Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, its health minister has said, after concerns that the island was unable to obtain shots because of intense global competition and its refusal to accept those made in mainland China.

Chen Shih-chung confirmed on Wednesday that Taiwan had signed an agreement with Moderna to buy 5.05 million doses of its vaccine, claimed to have among the highest efficacy rates in trials of the vaccines approved so far.

“We expect to receive the supplies by the latter part of the second quarter this year,” Chen said.

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The American firm had earlier announced plans for vaccine supply that included Taiwan, to be delivered in the middle of the year.

Moderna’s vaccine – given in two doses within 28 days – is not yet approved for use in Taiwan, and the company said it would work with regulators to obtain approval before distribution.

Expected to arrive in Taiwan between May and June, the vaccine will be given first to Taiwan’s priority groups, Chen said. Taiwan’s epidemic command centre has previously said the island’s 24 million population would be divided into nine groups according to priority, with health care and epidemic prevention workers to be inoculated first.

According to Moderna, its vaccine was 94 per cent effective in trials – slightly lower than the efficacy announced for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – and appeared to protect against the Covid-19 variants found in Britain and South Africa.

Moderna says its vaccine can be preserved for six months at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) and can last 30 days if stored between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.

How the Covid-19 vaccines compare and who can get them

“Its preservation condition is better than the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, which needs to be stored under minus 70 degrees Celsius,” said Chang Shan-chwen, vice-president of National Taiwan University and a member of the command centre, which is headed by Chen.

The command centre this week confirmed that Taiwan would receive 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Britain through the World Health Organization-backed Covax Facility. The delivery date has yet to be determined.

Taiwan has refused to buy vaccines developed in mainland China, on the basis of their lower efficacy data.

Acquiring a supply of Moderna’s vaccine is considered a coup for the self-ruled island, with vaccine supplies tight globally. Taiwan is also working to develop its own vaccines.

As they tried to ease concerns over vaccine supplies, the authorities had assured the public that their need to be vaccinated was less pressing given Taiwan’s success in largely containing its coronavirus outbreak.

As of Wednesday, Taiwan had reported a total of 935 cases, including 77 locally transmitted infections, and only nine deaths. Only 73 active cases have been treated in hospital.

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