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CORONAVIRUS/CDC to buy 5.5 million COVID-19 vaccines, to administer from October

06/26/2024 10:09 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, June 26 (CNA) Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Wednesday announced a plan to buy 5.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines targeting new variants that it will begin administering, along with flu vaccines, in October.

Due to the COVID-19 virus continuing to mutate, the CDC will purchase vaccines that offer better protection against new strains, CDC spokesperson Tseng Shu-hui (曾淑慧) said.

Tseng added that the agency plans to purchase 5.5 million doses within the year, but did not specify which variant the new jab would target.

The administration of the new vaccine will be scheduled in two phases and happen at the same time as the flu vaccine.

The first phase will kick off on Oct. 1 and individuals aged 65 and over, healthcare workers, and pregnant women will be eligible for both shots, Tseng said,

The second phase will begin on Nov. 1 and all individuals six months and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Those between 50-64 will also be encouraged to have a flu jab.

The CDC did not explain how enough COVID-19 vaccines would be sourced to inoculate all those eligible. The total resident population in Taiwan is 23,413,608 as of May 2024.

On June 13, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated its recommendations regarding COVID-19 vaccines, urging manufacturers, where feasible, to update vaccines so they target the KP.2 variant in 2024 and 2025.

Huang Li-min (黃立民), a specialist in pediatric infectious disease at National Taiwan University Hospital, said that since vaccine manufacturers have not yet produced vaccines targeting the KP.2 variant, it is likely that only vaccines targeting the JN.1 variant will be available this fall and winter in Taiwan.

He also noted that the CDC would likely purchase Moderna shots because updating Novovax COVID-19 vaccines has proven trickier due to technical constraints.

For individuals unable to receive mRNA vaccines, Huang said the existing XBB vaccine is still effective at preventing severe illness.

He added that even if JN.1 or KP.2 variants of COVID-19 vaccines are unavailable, Novavax's XBB vaccine could still be a viable alternative.

According to the data released by the CDC on Tuesday, Taiwan has seen a continuous rise in COVID-19 cases for five consecutive weeks, with 817 new local cases reported from June 18 to 24.

Over the past four weeks, the JN.1 variant has been the most prevalent strain in Taiwan, accounting for 62 percent of domestic cases and 47 percent of imported cases.

Meanwhile, the KP.2 variant has made up 18 percent of domestic cases and 25 percent of imported cases.

Tseng said that the authorities only need to be informed of a COVID-19 case if it is moderate or severe.

She predicted that the epidemic would continue to spread slowly until mid-July and that the rate of increase in cases in the upcoming two weeks was expected to be lower than in the previous two weeks.

(By Tseng Yi-ning and Sunny Lai)

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