CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan to receive rest of COVID drug order by June: health minister
Taipei, April 22 (CNA) Taiwan is expected to take delivery of another 520,000 courses of the COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid by the end of June, completing its first order, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Friday.
Amid a rapid surge in domestic COVID-19 cases, Taiwan recently signed a deal to acquire 700,000 courses of Paxlovid from Pfizer, and 180,000 courses have already been delivered, Chen said at the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) daily press briefing.
Paxlovid is an oral therapeutic treatment for COVID-19, which makes it easy to administer, and it meets Taiwan's current needs, he said. The 180,000 courses that Taiwan has received so far will be distributed to hospitals and pharmacies throughout the country, Chen said.
According to the CECC, Paxlovid is being given mainly to COVID-19 patients over the age of 64 and those under 65 who have chronic health issues.
The health minister, who heads the CECC, said the government is also seeking to buy more Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT) COVID-19 vaccines.
If the negotiations on that deal go smoothly, Taiwan would receive about 1.5 million Pfizer-BNT doses in May, which would also include special doses for children 5 to 11 years old, Chen said.
Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing applications for emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BNT vaccine for children and is awaiting some additional information from the vaccine makers, he said.
If Taiwan can vaccinate at least half of its 1.2 million children in the 6-11 age group, it will be a significant achievement, compared to the European Union and the United States, where only about 28 percent of children are vaccinated against COVID-19, Chen said.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of April 13, some 9.7 million American children ages 5-11 had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, representing 34 percent, while 28 percent had gotten two doses.
To date, 84.37 percent Taiwan's 23 million population has received at least one COVID-19 shot, while 79.63 percent has gotten two doses, and 56.86 percent has received a booster shot, CECC data showed.
Meanwhile, Chen said that more rapid test kits will become available in Taiwan between the end of April and early May, as the daily number of domestic COVID-19 cases has climbed to the thousands, depleting the country's rapid test reserves.
Some 21 million rapid test kits produced by Roche Diagnostics are scheduled to arrive in Taiwan on May 2, while another 7.8 million produced by Abbott Laboratories are expected on April 30, he said.
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