Taiwan grants emergency authorisation for AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

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FILE PHOTO: Vial and sryinge are seen in front of displayed AstraZeneca logo

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's government on Saturday granted emergency use authorisation for AstraZeneca Plc's COVID-19 vaccine, with shots expected to be administered at soon as within seven days of arrival.

In December, Taiwan said it had agreed to buy almost 20 million vaccine doses, including 10 million from AstraZeneca and 4.76 million doses from the COVAX global vaccine programme.

Emergency-use authorisation was granted on Saturday morning, and assuming the paperwork is in order, the first shots can begin with a week of arrival, Food and Drug Administration Director-General Wu Shou-mei told reporters.

The first batch of 200,000 AstraZeneca vaccines provided by COVAX could begin arriving next week.

Taiwan is also getting five million doses from U.S. drugmaker Moderna Inc. Wu said the process for granting it emergency-use approval was in full swing.

The government plans to vaccinate frontline health and quarantine workers first, and aims eventually to get 30 million vaccine doses to cover about 65% of the island's population.

Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention, with fewer than 50 active cases being treated in hospital. It has not yet received any vaccines, though with such a low rate officials have said there is no urgency to getting the shots.

Germany's BioNTech SE said this week it plans to provide COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan, after the island complained the firm pulled out of a deal to sell it 5 million doses at the last minute, possibly due to pressure from China, which claims Taiwan as its own.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by William Mallard)