CORONAVIRUS/U.S. supports Taiwan's access to COVID-19 vaccines
Washington, May 20 (CNA) U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra voiced his support on Thursday for Taiwan to access COVID-19 vaccines at a time when Taipei is fighting an escalation of domestically transmitted cases.
Becerra released the message on the HHS Office of Global Affairs Twitter page after concluding a virtual meeting with Taiwan's health minister Chen Shih- chung (陳時中), in which they exchanged views on global health issues, including the coronavirus pandemic.
"The U.S. supports Taiwan's ability to access vaccines," Becerra said in the Twitter message. But the tweet did not say whether the U.S. will actually help Taiwan obtain vaccines.
In a press conference in Taipei Friday, Chen said he asked Becerra for help with vaccine supply during their virtual meeting. The U.S. health secretary said he would take the matter to President Joe Biden, and promised that the U.S. would take into consideration Taiwan's needs when distributing its vaccines, according to Chen.
Last week, Taiwan's representative to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said she is working to guarantee that shipments of the U.S.-made Moderna COVID-19 vaccine arrive in the country in June.
Hsiao, head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO), said the recent spike in domestic infections has increased the urgency of the situation in Taiwan and she has therefore been in contact with U.S. vaccine makers to ensure that Taiwan's orders are delivered on time.
Taiwan has signed contracts to purchase 5.05 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, 10 million doses of AstraZeneca and 4.76 million doses of unspecified brands through the COVAX program for a population of more than 23 million.
On Wednesday, Taiwan took delivery of 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the second batch Taiwan has received from the global vaccine-sharing program COVAX.
Prior to Wednesday's shipment, Taiwan had taken delivery of 117,000 vaccine doses purchased directly from AstraZeneca and 199,200 doses of the same brand supplied through COVAX.
Earlier this week, U.S. President Joe Biden said his administration will send an additional 20 million doses of vaccines overseas by the end of June to bring the total to 80 million doses, which has raised hopes that Taiwan will benefit from the allocations.
Commenting on the vaccine allocations, White House Spokesperson Jen Paski said in a news briefing on Thursday that the U.S. will carry out the allocations equitably, ensure that the vaccines reach parts of the world that need help the most and do it in a way that's fair and has a regional balance.
In addition to the vaccine issue, Becerra also expressed his support for Taiwan's participation in the World Health Assembly (WHA), which is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, as an observer.
The U.S. supports Taiwan's "contributions to health security, & its return to observership at the #WHA #LetTaiwanHelp," the US. official said in the Twitter note.
It was the fifth consecutive year for Taiwan not to be invited to participate in the WHA as an observer.
As of Thursday, 13 of Taiwan's 15 diplomatic allies have proposed to the WHO and asked the organization to issue an invitation to Taipei to participate in the WHA as an observer.
Taiwan, whose formal name is the Republic of China (Taiwan), left the United Nations in 1971 and the WHO in 1972.
Since then, the country has not been able to participate in the WHA, except for 2009-2016, when it attended as an observer through an invitation from the WHO amid warmer cross-Taiwan Strait relations.
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