More COVID-19 vaccines are coming to Taiwan as cases increase

© Reuters. A frontline health worker prepares people for a rapid test after a surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 17, 2021. REUTERS / Ann Wang

By Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – An increase in coronavirus infections in Taiwan, one of the world’s most successful COVID-19 harm reduction measures, has made vaccines difficult to obtain with supplies of 300,000 doses in only about 1% of the 23 million people is running out vaccinated.

Taiwan had been a model for fighting the pandemic from the start, and life had gone on almost as usual without seeing the lockdowns and overwhelmed hospitals elsewhere, largely thanks to effective case tracking and closed borders.

However, more than 700 domestic cases were reported last week, out of a total of 2,017 infections recorded since the pandemic began. A total of 12 have died of COVID-19 on the island.

Strict new restrictions were introduced for the first time in the capital, Taipei, as authorities fear an increasing number of cases.

While Taiwan started vaccinating, it has only received about 300,000 shots, all from AstraZeneca (NASDAQ 🙂 Plc, which has fallen into global shortage despite 20 million orders, including from, ordered Modern (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc.

Health officials last week stopped taking photos of people who were not on priority lists, which include the elderly and medical workers.

De facto Taipei Ambassador to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, said in comments released Saturday by Taiwan’s official Central News Agency that she had urged Moderna to ensure vaccines arrive on time before the end of June.

“Our people’s expectations of vaccines are pretty dire,” she said.

Moderna and AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said last week that more vaccines would arrive starting next month, although she did not provide details. Domestically developed vaccines are also due by July.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters on Monday that there was “no new progress” to report the arrival of more vaccines, but much more were coming little by little. He didn’t give any details either.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the vaccine issue is both “sensitive and confidential” and that few details have been released.

HOPES

Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, has called for greater transparency on when vaccines are due, but also for the world to ensure that priority aid is given to the island, a major semiconductor maker.

“Taiwan’s pandemic is related to the stability of the global electronic product supply chain,” said party chairman Johnny Chiang on Sunday.

Another concern of the government has been China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and has a deep dislike for Tsai, who he believes is a separatist, which she denies.

China has shipped shipments of its domestically developed vaccines around the world and offered them to Taiwan through the global COVAX sharing program.

Taiwanese law does not allow the use of Chinese vaccines.

A security official investigating Chinese activities on the island told Reuters that security services should focus on what the government sees as China’s “cognitive warfare” in order to “create chaos” and increase public confidence in the dealings with the Chinese Undermine government with pandemic.

“News criticizing the government is spread on social media,” the person said.

“They are trying to highlight the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines and how the government is blindly placing its hopes on US vaccines and homemade vaccines, and is deserting citizens’ lives.”

The China Taiwan Affairs Bureau did not respond to requests for comment.

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