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Health workers, cabin crew to get priority for 2nd Moderna shot

ROC Central News Agency

07/12/2021 08:29 PM

Taipei, July 12 (CNA) Health workers, cabin crew and pregnant women will be able to receive a second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine within the recommended 28-day period, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday.

The CECC originally announced last week that due to limited supplies of Moderna, most people in Taiwan would not receive their second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine within the 28-day period recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Instead, the interval between a first and second Moderna shot would be 10 to 12 weeks so that more people in Taiwan could receive a first dose, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at the time.

On Monday, however, Chen, who heads the CECC, listed health workers, cabin crew and pregnant women as exceptions who will be able to receive a second Moderna jab four weeks after their first shots.

They are being given priority because of their profession or special condition, he said.

The WHO recommends an interval of 28 days between Moderna doses but says the time can be stretched to up to 12 weeks in certain circumstances.

For countries "that have not yet achieved high vaccine coverage rates in the high-priority groups who are experiencing a high incidence of COVID-19 cases" and have supply constraints, the interval can be extended to 12 weeks, the WHO said.

Taiwan received its first batch of Moderna vaccines, consisting of 150,000 doses, on May 28 and began their rollout on June 9.

The country later received 2.5 million doses of the vaccine donated by the United States government and another 650,000 doses of the vaccine it bought directly from the American manufacturer in June and July.

So far, nearly half, or about 1.56 million of the Moderna doses Taiwan has, have been used.

Because available Moderna vaccines are running out, Chen said Monday that for the next three weeks, those who wish to receive COVID-19 vaccine shots will only be able to get jabs made by AstraZeneca.

People aged 50 and older as well as those 18 and older who are at high risk of COVID-19 because of serious illnesses or rare diseases are eligible for the next vaccine distribution round slated to begin on July 16, he said.

Chen said the CECC will make vaccines available to people in younger age brackets once it takes delivery of more vaccine doses.

Meanwhile, asked about who will have priority to get the Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT) COVID-19 vaccine, Chen said Taiwan will give priority to students aged 12-15 because it is the only vaccine approved for use in people in that age group overseas.

Hon Hai Precision Industry and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) announced earlier Monday that they had reached deals with BNT to buy a combined 10 million doses before donating them to Taiwan's government to help contain the pandemic.

The doses could arrive as early as the end of September, the two tech firms said in a joint statement.

They were authorized by Taiwan's government in late June to purchase the Pfizer-BNT vaccine given that the government had trouble sealing a deal with the German company, which it blamed on Chinese pressure.

Taiwan's government has signed contracts to purchase about 20 million vaccine doses from abroad, including 5.05 million doses of Moderna, 10 million doses of AstraZeneca, and 4.76 million of unspecified brands through the COVAX program.

Only about 2.15 million doses have been delivered to date, but Taiwan has also received donations of 4.86 million doses from the U.S. and Japan.

The government has also signed contracts to buy 10 million doses of vaccines from two Taiwanese manufacturers, but their vaccines have yet to receive emergency use authorization from Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration.

As of Sunday, 14.87 percent of Taiwanese, or 3.565 million people, had received at least one vaccine dose in a country with 23.5 million people.

Only 73,583 Taiwanese, or 0.31 percent had received two vaccine doses, required for both the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines to be considered fully vaccinated.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Chiang Hui-chun and Joseph Yeh)

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