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CORONAVIRUS/CDC to buy 5.5 million Moderna JN.1 COVID-19 vaccine shots for October rollout

07/10/2024 09:40 PM
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Lee Ping-ing (left), convener of Taiwan's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and CDC Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang. CNA photo July 10, 2024
Lee Ping-ing (left), convener of Taiwan's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and CDC Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang. CNA photo July 10, 2024

Taipei, July 10 (CNA) The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Wednesday announced a plan to purchase 5.5 million doses of the Moderna monovalent JN.1 COVID-19 vaccine, which will be administered, along with the flu vaccine, from Oct. 1.

Over the past few months, the World Health Organization (WHO) and countries including the United States and Japan have recommended COVID-19 vaccines targeting the JN.1 variant, said Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎), convener of Taiwan's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

He added that the COVID-19 JN.1 variant is actually very similar to the KP.2 and KP.3 variants in terms of genetic differences, and results from animal tests have shown that the Moderna JN.1 COVID-19 vaccine can provide cross-protection to mice infected with the KP.2 or KP.3 variant.

Based on the above reasons and the fact that JN.1 is the predominant virus strain both domestically and internationally, the ACIP decided to recommend the Moderna monovalent JN.1 COVID-19 vaccine for autumn and winter vaccination programs in Taiwan, Lee said.

CDC data shows that over the past four weeks, the JN.1 variant was the most frequently detected strain both domestically and from abroad, accounting for 38 percent and 39 percent respectively, while the KP.2 variant accounted for 23 percent and 24 percent, and KP.3 for 14 percent and 20 percent.

CDC Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said the CDC aims for a 20 percent vaccination rate across all age groups and 40 percent for individuals aged 65 or above in Taiwan this year, meaning at least 4.6 million doses of monovalent JN.1 vaccines are needed based on Taiwan's total population of around 23 million.

"Some high-risk individuals might need two doses, and we must account for vaccine wastage," Chuang said, explaining why 5.5 million doses are needed.

From Sept. 26, 2023, to July 7, 2024, the vaccination rate for the XBB.1.5 COVID-19 vaccine -- the variant currently being administered -- has been 11.63 percent in Taiwan, with around 2.75 million individuals receiving the first dose and 104,202 the second dose, according to the CDC.

Regarding the plan for the administration of the Moderna monovalent JN.1 COVID-19 vaccine, CDC spokesperson Tseng Shu-hui (曾淑慧) said it will be scheduled in two phases and take place at the same time as the flu vaccine.

The first phase will kick off on Oct. 1, and individuals including those 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 shot, Tseng said, adding that those aged between 50 to 64 will also be encouraged to get a flu jab starting from Nov. 1.

"If the COVID-19 and flu vaccines are administered simultaneously, it can increase the vaccination rate and also enhance the protection and immunity of the public," Tseng noted.

During the weekly CDC briefing on Tuesday, the CDC said that 987 new domestic COVID-19 cases with moderate to severe complications were recorded between July 2-8, which was 6 percent higher than the previous week (931 cases) and the highest weekly level this year.

In addition, 99 new deaths were also reported last week, the CDC added.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Taiwan is projected to peak in mid-July, with weekly clinic or emergency room visits expected to soar to 130,000, according to the CDC.

(By Sunny Lai)

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