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Homeland Security

Special committee to be established to review COVID-19 vaccines purchase

ROC Central News Agency

03/24/2021 04:58 PM

Taipei, March 24 (CNA) Lawmakers across party lines on Wednesday agreed to set up a special legislative committee to review government data on the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines in response to a complaint by opposition parties that Taiwanese have been kept in the dark on the issue.

The exact date when the special committee will officially start work will be decided at a later date, according to the agreement reached by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

The deal was reached following several hours of negotiations between the two parties that began early Wednesday after KMT legislators occupied the podium in the Legislature's Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee to protest DPP attempts to block the establishment of such a committee.

The Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee originally voted to establish a special committee to look into the government's acquisition of vaccines on March 18.

However, the ruling DPP, which holds a majority in the lawmaking body, later voted to revoke that decision on March 22, citing "procedural flaws."

The KMT accused the DPP government of seeking to avoid public scrutiny of the vaccine purchase process.

It originally pushed to establish a review committee after Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), during a legislative session on March 17, refused to disclose the price paid by the government to procure the coronavirus vaccines, or when they are expected to be delivered, citing confidentiality agreements.

Chen argued that disclosing such information could violate the confidentiality agreements the government signed with vaccine providers, and thereby jeopardize ongoing negotiations with potential future vaccine providers.

Asked to comment, Chen said Wednesday that he respects the lawmakers'decision to form a special committee.

The government started administering COVID-19 vaccines on Monday after receiving its first batch, comprising 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 3.

Taiwan has signed contracts to purchase 10 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 4.76 million doses of vaccines through the COVAX allocation program, according to government data.

(By Kuo Chien-shen and Joseph Yeh)

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