On 31 January 2021 Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that Taiwan could face delays in the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine from British-Swedish vaccine developer AstraZeneca, after the EU introduced tighter rules on vaccine exports a day earlier.
Chen, who also heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), made the comment after new rules, set to be introduced from 30 Jan to 31 March, stipulate the export of COVID-19 vaccines produced in the bloc have to be approved by the EU authorities. At a press conference in Taipei, Chen said a batch of vaccine doses from AstraZeneca was scheduled to be delivered soon, but that could now be subject to change.
Minister Chen said “Related information on the delivery will be made public once the CECC familiarizes itself with recent developments, Taiwan has also been in touch with COVAX, an initiative under the World Health Organization to ensure access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, over the possible delay, but a reply has not yet been received.”
However, the CECC head said AstraZeneca has been in touch recently, without further elaborating. When asked if the CECC would consider trading locally produced semiconductor chips for COVID-19 vaccines from other countries, Chen said he would bring up the idea when in international negotiations, as it has backing from both governing and opposition parties in Taiwan.
The minister also addressed the possibility of procuring COVID-19 vaccines made in China, saying the CECC has not chosen Chinese vaccines in the fight against the coronavirus because there is insufficient information on their efficacy. On 30 Dec 2020, the CECC said it had been in talks with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers with the aim of procuring approximately 20 million doses, including 4.76 million doses through COVAX, 10 million from AstraZeneca and some from another vaccine developer.
According to Taiwan News, the vaccines were expected to be delivered as early as March 2021, the center said at that time. Explaining the uncertainty regarding the delivery, Chen said vaccine manufacturers produce their products in different countries and are at different stages of vaccine development, so the situation is a little “chaotic.”