Outbreak of Just 23 Cases Sees Rush on Vaccines in Taiwan
(Bloomberg) -- A rising number of Covid-19 infections is prompting thousands of members of the hesitant Taiwanese public to get vaccinated.
A record 11,018 people received vaccinations on Wednesday, as an increase in daily infections threatens to shatter Taiwan’s status as one of the world’s biggest success stories in containing the pandemic. Two consecutive days of record local cases this week, seven on Tuesday and 16 on Wednesday, prompted the government to reimpose restrictions on large gatherings for the first time since last summer.
The number of people signing up for inoculations is steadily rising as the outbreak risks disrupting months of mostly normal social activity in Taiwan. It’s one of just a few places in the world that has all but eliminated the virus -- including Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and China -- reporting just over 1,200 cases and 12 deaths in total. Because of their success in containing Covid, some places have faced hesitation among people to get vaccinated in the absence of a clear and present viral threat.
Taiwan began offering AstraZeneca Plc vaccines to front-line health workers in mid-March, but initial takeup was slowed by concerns about the shots’ links to blood clots. That began to change in May, as health authorities struggled to contain a slowly growing outbreak centered around a hotel used to quarantine airline pilots.
The vaccine is currently available to medical staff, emergency service and military personnel, over 65s and anyone who needs to travel overseas --though proof of any journey isn’t required.
Vaccine acquisition has been an ongoing struggle for the government. While authorities have previously said they expect to have 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Moderna Inc. vaccines available by this summer, so far only 315,000 doses have arrived in Taiwan, enough to fully inoculate less than 1% of the population of 23.5 million people. Despite the surge, only about 112,500 vaccine doses have been administered so far, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker, some 0.2% of residents.
In February, Taiwanese health minister Chen Shih-chung expressed concern that “external forces” had prevented Taiwan from buying 5 million doses of vaccines from Germany’s BioNTech SE, widely seen as a reference to political interference from China. Beijing denied the suggestion, saying Taiwan’s government “should stop hyping up political issues under the pretext of vaccine issues.”
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