Taiwan to begin AstraZeneca vaccinations next week

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March 18 (UPI) — Taiwan is to begin administering the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after a shipment of South Korea-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines were cleared by local authorities.

The island nation, a COVID-19 success story with one of the lowest infection rates in the world, will begin vaccinations Monday, Nikkei Asia and Taiwan News reported.

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The inoculation is to begin with 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca product, which arrived in Taiwan on March 3. Vaccinations will enable Taiwanese nationals to travel again, according to reports.

Local authorities including Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung previously have said Taiwan is not in a rush to roll out a vaccine program. Taiwan has reported 998 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and only 29 active cases this week, according to Nikkei Asia.

Taiwan’s decision to move forward with the AstraZeneca vaccines comes after several countries in the European Union suspended their rollout, citing side effects amid rising concerns over blood clot formation. AstraZeneca has said the vaccine is safe.

While Taiwan is expected to begin inoculations on Monday, the country’s Centers for Disease Control will meet Friday to review data. Distribution and logistics, as well as the prioritization of certain groups will be discussed later this week, Chen had said, according to Taiwan News.

Taiwan’s sovereignty is not recognized in China, and many countries have severed formal diplomatic relations with the island in favor of Beijing.

But other nations, including Palau and Paraguay, have continued to recognize Taiwanese sovereignty.

Taipei said Wednesday it would form its first travel bubble with Palau in the Pacific, where zero cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported in the past year, according to the Nikkei.

Taiwan also is assisting Paraguay with the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. Protesters in Paraguay have demanded better healthcare as the country continues to reel from the impact of the pandemic.