Taiwan will administer AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine as early as March 22, as the beginning of its vaccination drive. The plan proceeds as European countries resume AstraZeneca vaccinations, which were temporarily suspended to investigate blood clot-related side effects. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has concluded the vaccine is safe and effective.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung announced Wednesday that the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines, 117,000 AstraZeneca shots, has been approved, and vaccination will go ahead soon.

The batch, part of the 10 million doses that Taiwan ordered from AstraZeneca, arrived in Taiwan earlier this month, and was sent for checks by the Food and Drug Administration.

Chen said medical workers are the first group to be vaccinated, and around 60,000 are in line to receive the jab. The group represents 33% of all the workers directly treating and caring for Covid-19 patients in Taiwan.

Chuang ‪Jen-Hsiang, spokesperson for the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), said more medical workers will be willing to receive vaccination as other vaccines, including Moderna’s, arrive, and Taiwanese vaccines come into the market.

Chuang today told reporters at the daily press briefing on the pandemic that a total of 44,500 doses have been distributed to 56 hospitals across Taiwan for the first vaccination drive.


Photo Credit: CNA

Chuang ‪Jen-Hsiang, spokesperson for the Central Epidemic Command Center, at a press conference on March 15, 2021.

Three groups of people will not receive AstraZeneca’s vaccine: those who are allergic to the ingredients in the vaccine, show severe allergic reactions after vaccination, and those who are below the age of 18, Chuang announced Monday.

As Taiwan starts mass vaccination, many European countries have reported cases of blood clots after inoculation of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, raising concerns over its side effects.

Taiwan’s health officials say they will encourage people to receive the vaccine, given the lack of evidence suggesting its link to clots.

Lo Yi-chun, deputy chief of the CECC’s medical response division, said Saturday that cases of blood clots are uncommon in Taiwan. Statistics reveal the condition occurs to 1.59 in 10,000 Taiwanese people, five to 10 times less likely than in Western countries, he added.

Lo also cited a statement a day earlier by the European Medicines Agency, which said that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s vaccine “continue to outweigh the risk.” During its investigation, the EMA said the vaccine can “continue to be administered.”

Still, a dozen of countries, including Germany, Italy, and France, temporarily suspended AstraZeneca’s vaccine before the EMA concluded the review of the shot today. The association said the vaccine is “not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots.”

Emer Cook, the executive director for the EMA, said the vaccine’s “benefits in protecting people from Covid-19 with the associated risks of death and hospitalisation outweigh the possible risks.”

Following the statement, most countries said that they will resume the rollout no later than next week. France and Italy have restarted using AstraZeneca’s vaccine today.

READ NEXT: With Vaccines in Hand, What’s Next for Taiwan’s Covid-19 Response?

TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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