Taiwan says it has completed checks for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which some European countries have suspended.
Taiwan has given regulatory approval to AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and could begin administering the first inoculations as early as Monday, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said.
Taiwan’s first vaccines – 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine – arrived on the island earlier this month.
In a video statement Wednesday night, Chen said the doses, which came from a South Korean factory, cleared the last of checks by the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration.
The goal is to start distributing them on Monday, he added.
Taiwan is prioritizing health workers in the first wave of its vaccination program, and around 60,000 people are lining up to receive the first vaccinations, Chen said.
The autonomous island took early steps to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic and managed to keep the total number of cases below 1,000, wiping out outbreaks with a strict quarantine and testing system.
In December, Taiwan announced that it had agreed to purchase nearly 20 million doses of the vaccine, including 10 million from AstraZeneca.
More than a dozen European countries have suspended use of the vaccine over concerns about its safety following reports of incidents of blood clotting. Millions of doses have been given without adverse effects, and the World Health Organization said on Wednesday it considers the vaccine’s benefits outweighed its risks, recommending that vaccinations continue.
The Taiwan government played down concerns about the late start of its vaccination program, stressing that its low case rate means the emergency is not as high as in countries where the pandemic remains endemic.
Only 24 people are hospitalized and treated for COVID-19 in Taiwan.