CORONAVIRUS/President thanks U.S. for Moderna COVID-19 vaccine donation
Taiwan, June 20 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Saturday thanked the United States for donating 2.5 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan, saying that the U.S. is a "true friend" who supports the Taiwanese people.
The 2.5 million doses include 750,000 doses pledged by the U.S. on June 6, and an additional 1.75 million doses announced over the weekend. The shipment is scheduled to arrive in Taiwan Sunday evening.
In a Facebook post, Tsai said that the additional doses were the result of hard work of many people in both the U.S. and Taiwan.
She expressed gratitude to President Joe Biden's administration for its "strong support for the Taiwanese people." She also thanked Taiwan's foreign affairs officials, including representative to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), for striving to obtain vaccines and fighting for the health of people in Taiwan.
Tsai urged opposition parties in Taiwan to work with the government in encouraging people to get vaccinated and in "clarifying rumors" surrounding COVID-19 vaccines.
The utmost goal now is for people to become protected against the disease, she said.
Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) said on Saturday that much had to be done in the past two weeks for the vaccine doses to be sent to Taiwan, including the confirmation of technical documents related to the vaccine, contract signing, and coordinating transport and storage.
During this process, President Tsai and Representative Hsiao talked constantly over the phone to keep tabs on the progress being made, Chang said, while foreign affairs officials in both the Taiwan and U.S. worked tirelessly to make sure that the shipment could be delivered smoothly.
"Even though there is a time difference of twelve hours between Taiwan and Washington, there is no lag in the two sides' communication," he said.
Hsiao, meanwhile, said that the vaccine doses were delivered to Memphis International Airport in Tennessee around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday (CST) and were loaded onto a China Airlines cargo plane.
Having a Taiwanese airline transport the shipment helped expedite the delivery process, Hsiao told CNA.
"Every single vaccine dose is hard to come by," Hsiao said, and she expressed hope that this show of support from the U.S. to Taiwan can continue to propel bilateral relations in the future.
Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), chairman of the main opposition party Kuomintang, said that the U.S.' donation of vaccines is proof of the friendship between Taiwan and the U.S., and he thanked the U.S. government for its help.
However, the aid offered to Taiwan by Japan and the U.S. makes the central government's lack of preparation in obtaining vaccines more regrettable, he said.
He urged the government to closely monitor delivery of vaccines that Taiwan has purchased, assist Taiwanese businesses in their efforts to purchase vaccines, and make sure domestic vaccine companies conduct Phase 3 clinical trials. Taiwan cannot simply rely on other countries' donations, he said.
Taiwan has signed contracts to purchase nearly 20 million vaccines from abroad, including 5.05 million doses of Moderna, 10 million of AstraZeneca, and 4.76 million doses of unspecified brands through the COVAX program.
It has also signed contracts to buy 10 million doses of vaccines from two Taiwanese companies.
However, to date, Taiwan has received only 2.29 million doses of vaccines, including: 390,000 doses of Moderna it purchased and over 1.9 million doses of AstraZeneca -- 1.24 million donated by Japan and 726,600 purchased from the manufacturer and through the United Nations vaccine distribution program COVAX.
Experts say Taiwan needs around 30 million doses of vaccines to achieve herd immunity -- in which 60 percent of the population is vaccinated -- and to reopen to the outside world.
So far, only 6 percent of Taiwan's 23 million population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot.
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