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Taiwan to allow vaccine mixing if first dose triggers severe reaction

ROC Central News Agency

05/26/2021 02:01 PM

Taipei, May 26 (CNA) Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) will update its COVID-19 vaccination guidelines to allow people to receive a second dose of a different vaccine if they have a severe allergic reaction to the first dose.

The issue of so-called vaccine mixing -- which arises from the fact that most COVID-19 vaccines require a two-dose regimen -- has been debated in a variety of contexts, including as a response to vaccine recipients who suffer adverse reactions.

Although Taiwan's vaccination guidelines currently prohibit the practice, the CECC is planning to make an exception for people who suffer a severe allergic reaction after receiving their first dose, CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told CNA on Tuesday.

In these instances, Chuang said, "it is clear that (the vaccine recipients) can't receive their second dose using the same vaccine technology."

Allowing them to receive a different brand of vaccine for their second shot is a way to protect their right to complete the vaccination regimen, he said.

For the time being, the exception will only apply to people who have a severe allergic reaction -- not to those who experience more moderate side effects, Chuang said, adding that this could change based on future scientific findings.

Huang Li-min (黃立民), who heads the National Taiwan University Children's Hospital and the Infectious Diseases Society of Taiwan, explained that experts often advise against vaccine mixing due to the lack of clinical evidence on the topic, including on how it may affect a vaccine's safety or efficacy.

The practice, however, can benefit people who have severe allergic reactions, which are often caused by allergies to a specific ingredient in a vaccine, rather than allergies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus S protein that is used as a target in many COVID-19 vaccines, he said.

Still, the policy change will likely only affect a small number of people, and in any case will not be an option until Taiwan obtains other brands of COVID-19 vaccines.

As of Monday, Taiwan had administered 311,678 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine but recorded only three cases of severe allergic reactions, and no deaths, according to CECC statistics.

Taiwan currently only has the AstraZeneca vaccine, though the government has said it expects to receive shipments of the Moderna vaccine in June and have a locally made vaccine available in July.

Meanwhile, Chuang said that the CECC would also update its guidelines to advise people who have had symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19 to get vaccinated at least six months after the date they first developed symptoms.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Chang Ming-hsuan, Chaing Hui-chun and Matthew Mazzetta)

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