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150,000 Moderna doses to arrive in Taiwan tomorrow

First batch of 5.05 million Moderna COVID vaccine doses to arrive in Taiwan on May 28

Taiwan has approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. 

Taiwan has approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that the first batch of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is set to arrive on Friday afternoon (May 28).

Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) on Thursday evening (May 27) confirmed local media reports that a shipment of 150,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine is scheduled to arrive in Taiwan at 3:50 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

The batch will immediately be sent to a cold chain logistics center, with the hopes of inspection being completed within two weeks. Frontline personnel such as medical workers are expected to be prioritized for the first batch of Moderna shots.

According to a CECC press release, the vaccine is packaged in multi-dose form (10 doses per vial). It can be stored for up to six months if a temperature of -20 degrees Celsius can be maintained, and two doses are recommended for each recipient for maximum effectiveness, with an interval between shots of no more than 28 days.

According to local media reports, a China Airlines plane carrying the jabs, Flight CI5556, took off from Luxembourg at 6 p.m. on Thursday Taipei time. After a stopover in Dubai, it will deliver two temperature-controlled units to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Friday afternoon.

On May 19, as Taiwan received 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19, it also received a batch of sample doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna. During a press conference that evening, Wu Shou-mei (吳秀梅), director-general at the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said that Taiwan had received 20 sample vials of the Moderna vaccine, with each vial containing 10 doses, the equivalent to 200 doses.

Wu said that inspection and re-sealing of vaccine packaging normally takes 40 days, but due to the pandemic, the process will be shortened to 14 days. She pointed out that while AstraZeneca is an adenovirus vector vaccine, Moderna is quite different in that it is an mRNA vaccine.

Therefore, the FDA needs to have samples of the product ahead of time to set up a standard operating procedure for handling it, said Wu.

In February, Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) stated that Taiwan has purchased 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. At that time, Chen said the Moderna shots were 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 an additional 50,000 doses. On May 5, it was announced that the Food and Drug Administration had granted authorization for emergency use of the Moderna vaccine on April 22.

According to Chen, the vaccine will be stored in special freezers in 22 counties and cities. He further stated that all local health departments are capable of maintaining the vaccine in frozen form at minus 20 degrees Celsius.

He said that after thawing, the vaccine can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees for about 30 days, which makes it much easier to store than the Pfizer vaccine. 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 95 percent.