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Coronavirus

Taiwan presses US health secretary on COVID-19 vaccines

Published: Updated:

Taiwan’s health minister said on Friday he had spoken to his US counterpart to ask for help in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines, who had responded that he would take the matter to President Joe Biden, amid a spike in infections on the island.

Having for months been held up as an example of how to stop the virus in its tracks, Taiwan has over the past two weeks reported a spiraling number of infections in the community, with some 1,800 cases.

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Taiwan’s battle against the virus has been complicated by a lack of vaccines, with only about 700,000 arriving to date, including 410,000 this week, all AstraZeneca Plc shots.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said he had spoken with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on a video conference call about medical cooperation.

“More importantly, we brought up that Taiwan’s pandemic is increasing, and at this point we have an urgent need for vaccines, and hope he can support Taiwan when it comes to the vaccines the United States are going to release,” Chen said.

In response, Chen said Becerra said Taiwan’s needs will be considered and he will take the matter to the president.

Biden said this week he will send at least 20 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad by the end of June, marking the first time the United States is sharing vaccines authorised for domestic use.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic relations with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, and Beijing routinely condemns any high-level contacts between Washington and Taipei.

China reacted with fury when Alex Azar, the Trump administration’s health secretary, came to Taipei in August, sending fighter jets near the island.

Taiwan’s current spike in domestic COVID-19 infections has not rapidly accelerated, reporting 312 new cases on Friday, a slight rise from the 286 infections reported the previous day.

Chen said this weekend would be critical in bringing the pandemic under control and he called on people to stay at home as much as possible.

“If the flow of people can be reduced to a minimum during these two days, the chain of transmission will be gradually cut off, which will be very useful,” he said.

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