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Only a third of medical workers willing to get AstraZeneca vaccine

ROC Central News Agency

03/16/2021 06:49 PM

Taipei, March 16 (CNA) Only a third of medical workers at hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients in Taiwan are willing to get the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, according to preliminary results of a Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) survey.

About 90 percent of medical personnel at those hospitals, or about 183,000 people, have responded to the survey so far, and about 32.7 percent of them, or 59,984, said they were willing to get the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Broken down by category, around 43 percent of medical workers and other frontline personnel who directly work with COVID-19 patients or those suspected of having the disease were willing to get the vaccine, CECC spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said at a press briefing.

Only 28 percent of those who work at hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients but who take care of patients who do not have COVID-19, were willing to get the vaccine, Chuang said.

The CECC did not disclose if the medical workers who were not interested in getting the vaccine were asked why they were opposed to it and if it was driven by concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine in particular or a broader aversion to getting vaccinated.

However, when 532 medical workers were asked in a CECC survey in late January whether they were willing to get vaccinated without specifying a vaccine brand, nearly two-thirds (65.2 percent) said they were, suggesting there could be some resistance to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The only COVID-19 vaccines that Taiwan has received so far is a batch of 117,000 doses from AstraZeneca. The shipment is currently being tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a process expected to wrap up Wednesday.

Chuang said that after the tests are completed, the CECC will hold a meeting with experts on whether the vaccine meets Taiwan's safety requirements.

"We will look at the reasons why some countries have suspended administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the data on blood clots, and recommendations of European health authorities," Chuang said.

There have been reports in recent weeks of people who have had blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, leading European countries such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands to pause their rollout.

The European Union's medicines regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), is currently reviewing whether the blood clots are a direct result of the vaccine, it said in a press release Monday.

While its investigation is ongoing, the EMA "currently remains of the view that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risks of side effects," it said.

AstraZeneca said Sunday that "a careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million vaccinated in the European Union and the United Kingdom has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country."

As of March 8, the company had received reports of 15 events of deep vein thrombosis, a type of blood clot that often develops in one's legs, and 22 events of pulmonary embolism, which usually results from a blood clot that has traveled to the lungs.

"This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines," the company said.

Taiwan has signed contracts to purchase a total of 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, and 4.76 million doses of vaccines through COVAX.

COVAX has previously said it will allocate 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan in its first round of distribution, but it has not yet informed Taiwan when these will arrive.

(By Fan Cheng-hsiang and Chiang Yi-ching)

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