Taiwan has secured around 15 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, announced the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) at the daily press briefing on the pandemic yesterday. More than half of the population can be vaccinated once the vaccine is proved safe and effective.

Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), Minister of Health and Welfare, said Taiwan has clinched a deal earlier this week with an undisclosed vaccine manufacturer and paid the deposit for 10 million doses.

This is the first bilateral deal that the government has signed for a Covid-19 vaccine. Negotiations for three other vaccines are underway, Chen said.

The pharma groups that the Taiwanese government has been in talks with are likely to be Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi, according to a person familiar with the matter.

入境要求武肺陰性證明  陳時中:不得已才做決定

Photo Credit: CNA

Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan's Minister of Health and Welfare, gestures during an inquiry session in the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan's parliament, November 23, 2020.

On Tuesday, Taiwan was ranked third in Bloomberg’s “Covid Resilience Ranking,” following New Zealand and Japan. But the country scored zero in “Access to Covid vaccines,” based on the government’s failure to ink any vaccine deals.

“Many countries make public announcements after they sign contracts to procure vaccine doses,” Chen said in response to the result. “We have kept the progress confidential during the negotiation process, but the public misunderstood this as our failure to secure any doses.”

In addition to the 10 million doses, Taiwan also plans to obtain around 4.6 million doses from COVAX, a global initiative that ensures fair vaccine distribution among 171 member states, bringing the number of doses the country has secured to around 15 million.

Jen-Hsiang Chuang (莊人祥), a spokesperson for the CECC, said if COVAX “keeps its promise,” chances are that Taiwan will start giving these Covid-19 vaccine shots in the first quarter next year.

Medical workers, quarantine inspectors, police officers and soldiers, caregivers, and social workers are the first in line to receive vaccination, Chuang said on Monday. Next in line are the elderly aged 65 and above, high-risk patients aged 19 to 64, and those who suffer from rare disorders or critical illnesses.

For now, children are not included in the list, he added, because Covid-19 cases in kids are rare.

Chen said on Wednesday it is challenging to make vaccination compulsory, but the government will keep the public informed of its pros and cons and come up with measures to boost the rate of vaccination.


Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images

Vials with a sticker reading, “COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only” and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken on October 31, 2020.

In an interview with Radio Taiwan International, Chen said Taiwan’s vaccine strategy includes procuring Covid-19 vaccine doses produced in other countries while developing its own to ensure the country has enough shots at its disposal next year.

Chen has made it clear that Taiwan will not purchase Covid-19 vaccine doses developed by Chinese companies, in adherence to a local law that prohibits imports of biomedical products made in China, though COVAX is likely to provide Chinese vaccine doses to its members.

“Vaccine development is a matter of national security,” Chen said. “In case of outbreaks of other diseases, Taiwan has to be capable of developing and manufacturing its own vaccines.”

In Taiwan, four pharma groups have been developing vaccines for Covid-19, with three in the first phase of clinical trials. The first natively-developed vaccine is slated to come on the market in the second half of 2021.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration recruited 20,000 subjects for the vaccine trials on behalf of these companies. More than 6,000 signed up on the first day.

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TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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