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Taiwan to receive Moderna vaccine in May or June

Country to receive 5.05 million doses of Moderna coronavirus vaccine

Vial of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna.

Vial of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Wednesday (Feb. 10) confirmed the country will be receiving over 5 million doses of the Moderna COVD-19 vaccine in the second quarter of this year.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced that Taiwan has purchased 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. He said that it is expected to arrive in batches in May and June.

Chen said the company had initially agreed to sell 5 million doses to Taiwan, but the CECC was able to negotiate for an additional 50,000 doses. He said the vaccine will be stored in special freezers in 22 counties and cities.

He further stated that all of Taiwan's local health departments have the capability to maintain the vaccine in frozen form at minus 20 degrees Celsius. He said that after thawing, the vaccine can be stored at between 2 to 8 C for about 30 days, which makes it much easier to store than the Pfizer vaccine.

Chen explained the Pfizer vaccine must be kept frozen at minus 70 C and that it is only viable for three to five days after thawing. The cold chain logistics for the Moderna vaccine are relatively simple by comparison.

CECC Spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) pointed out that after two doses, the Moderna jab has an efficacy rating of 94.1 percent, very close to Pfizer's efficacy of 95 percent. As for the AstraZeneca vaccine, its overall efficacy was initially believed to be 70 percent at half a dose, with that rising to 90 percent with a full dose.

However, a recent study in South Africa found the AstraZeneca vaccine was only 60 percent effective against the variant first discovered in that country. This has raised concerns about whether frontline medical workers, who are likely to be exposed to new strains in Taiwan, should still receive the 200,000 doses allocated to the country through COVAX.

As for Taiwan's domestically developed vaccines, Chen said progress is being made. He said that two vaccine candidates have entered Phase II trials.

Chen added that the CECC has signed a contract for 5 million doses with one Taiwanese company. The agency is in talks with a second company to purchase another 5 million doses and is also discussing the possibility of acquiring vaccines from a third domestic vaccine maker.