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60% of Taiwanese may get first vaccine dose by October: health minister

ROC Central News Agency

05/28/2021 08:38 PM

Taipei, May 28 (CNA) About 60 percent of Taiwan's population may receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by October, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at a legislative hearing Friday.

Asked by Kuomintang Legislator Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) when Taiwan could expect that 60 percent of its people get at least one vaccine jab, Chen said it would depend on the availability of vaccines.

"It would take about 14 million doses of the vaccine for 60 percent of Taiwanese people to get their first dose, but we are expecting to take delivery of only 11 million doses by August," Chen said.

Taiwan has a population of 23.5 million people.

"We expect to have enough doses for that purpose by September. If the speed with which we distribute these is fast enough, we can get 60 percent of our population a first dose by October," he said.

Tseng told CNA that he understood it took two doses for a person to be fully vaccinated, but because of Taiwan's lack of vaccines, he wanted to ask Chen how long it would take for people to simply get a first dose at a level that some experts see as achieving some degree of herd immunity.

The issue has grown pressing because of a surge in COVID-19 cases that has sent demand for vaccines skyrocketing.

Taiwan's vaccine rollout program has been lackluster, hampered by the country's inability to secure delivery of vaccines from overseas.

As of Thursday, almost all of the 316,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that were delivered in the past two months had been given to local residents.

The distribution of another 410,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine began Thursday, and 150,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Taiwan on Friday.

After reporting almost no domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases since the outbreak began in January 2020, Taiwan has averaged hundreds of cases every day for the past 14 days.

On Friday, Taiwan reported 555 new domestic COVID-19 cases and 19 deaths were reported, bringing the total to over 5,500 locally transmitted cases since May 15.

Restrictions on gatherings and in-person dining at restaurants have been imposed, and schools, entertainment businesses, and other public venues around the country have been closed since mid-May to try to keep the spread of the disease under control.

Meanwhile, during the same legislative hearing, Deputy Health Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) told legislators that the government had allocated NT$11.55 billion (US$41 million) for 30 million vaccine doses to vaccinate 60 percent of Taiwan's population.

After signing contracts for around 20 million doses, the original budget already was short NT$1.05 billion, he said, and the government needed another NT$10 billion to fill the shortage and pay for the remaining 10 million doses.

In addition to this, the government wants to procure another 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to cover more of the population, which would cost NT$12.6 billion, he said.

Adding up the two items, the government would need an additional budget of NT$22.6 billion for future vaccine procurement, he said.

(By Lin Yu-hsuan and Emerson Lim)

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