Taiwan gets 400,000-dose vaccine boost as COVID cases rise

Taiwan has ordered 20mln doses, mostly from AstraZeneca but also from Moderna Inc

  
A soldier disinfects a person who is leaving a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing site following a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in Taipei, Taiwan May 19, 2021.

A soldier disinfects a person who is leaving a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing site following a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in Taipei, Taiwan May 19, 2021.

Reuters/Ann Wang

TAIPEI - Taiwan will get 400,000 more AstraZeneca Plc COVID-19 doses on Wednesday from the COVAX global sharing programme, the government said, as it faces a dwindling supply of shots during a spike in domestic infections.

Taiwan has reported almost 1,000 new infections during the past week or so, leading to new curbs in the capital, Taipei, and shocking a population that had become accustomed to life carrying on almost normally.

But its stock of vaccines is rapidly falling. It has only received a little more than 300,000 to date, all from AstraZeneca Plc. At least two-thirds of those have been distributed.

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told reporters that the roughly 400,000 additional doses would arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon from Amsterdam.

The shots are coming from COVAX, which distributes vaccines to lower-income countries, Lo said.

Taiwan has said it expected to get more than 1 million AstraZeneca shots via COVAX.

Taiwan has ordered 20 million doses, mostly from AstraZeneca but also from Moderna Inc, though global shortages have curtailed supplies.

In a statement on Wednesday, Taiwan's Centres for Disease Control said after a virtual workshop on vaccines on Tuesday with the top U.S., British, Japanese and Australian diplomats in Taipei that vaccines must be fairly distributed.

"Fair access to effective vaccines is the ultimate means to curb the global COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to more effective and sufficient vaccine development and marketing, and call on all countries to work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic," it said.

Taiwan is mobilising its diplomats to try to speed up access to more vaccines, and is in talks with the United States for a share of the COVID-19 shots President Joe Biden plans to send abroad.

Brent Christensen, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan, said at the same event that "talking about COVID-19 vaccines can be a sensitive subject", according to a copy of his remarks published by his office.

"We recognise that each country and region is at different stages in their COVID-19 vaccination programmes," the remarks said. "Unfortunately, many still face difficulties gaining access to vaccines."

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee. Editing by Gerry Doyle) ((ben.blanchard@thomsonreuters.com;))


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