More Moderna COVID-19 shots sent to Taiwan to bolster vaccine rollout

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A further 410,000 doses of Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen said on Tuesday, further boosting the island’s efforts to fight a cluster of local infections.

Only around 8 percent of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two shot regimen against COVID-19, and the government has been under pressure to speed up deliveries of the millions of doses it has on order.

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“The flight with the 410,000 doses should arrive tomorrow afternoon or early evening if everything is as normal,” Chen told reporters.

The government had previously confirmed it would receive part of its direct order for 5.05 million doses from Moderna on Wednesday, but had not directly said how many would be coming.

When asked if a government-run research center is in talks with Moderna to make COVID-19 vaccines, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the government “will not give up any opportunity” and is currently reviewing its vaccine manufacturing capacity for international companies.

“We are reviewing related capacity, willingness and division of labor domestically. That will smooth things out in a negotiation,” Chen told a daily news briefing, without giving details.

Taiwan has received a total of 4.85 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to date, including 1.24 million donated by Japan and 2.5 million donated by the United States. Japan has pledged another 1 million, while Lithuania is giving Taiwan 20,000.

Taiwan’s own direct orders also include 10 million doses from AstraZeneca Plc and 4.76 million from the COVAX global sharing scheme for lower income countries.

It has another 10 million doses on order from two Taiwanese companies who are developing domestic vaccines, but it remains unclear when they might start being administered as they have yet to be approved by the government.

Taiwan’s own domestic outbreak of the virus is being brought under control, but it remains wary about a handful of cases of the highly contagious Delta variant in southern Taiwan.

The island reported 54 new domestic infections on Tuesday, down from 60 a day earlier, marking the smallest daily rise since May 15, when the government raised the alert level for Taipei and its neighboring city in the wake of a sudden spike of domestic cases.

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