Taiwan premier gets AstraZeneca shot as island starts vaccine campaign

TAIPEI — Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang received the AstraZeneca coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) shot on Monday, having volunteered to be first in line to underscore government confidence in the vaccine’s safety as the island began its inoculation campaign.

“I have just finished getting the injection, there is no pain at the injection site, and there is no soreness of the body,” Mr. Su told reporters at National Taiwan University Hospital in central Taipei.

“The doctor told me to drink more boiled water and rest a bit. The first point I’ll follow, and the second point may be more difficult. But I’ll still try to rest as much as possible,” he added.

More than a dozen European countries suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine last week amid concerns about its safety after reports of a small number of blood disorders. The World Health Organization’s European director said on Thursday the benefits of the shot far outweigh any risks, and its widespread use resumed on Friday.

Taiwan’s first vaccines—117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca shot—arrived on the island earlier this month from a South Korean factory.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung was also vaccinated at the same hospital as the premier, and was seen laughing and chatting with medical personnel in government-released footage of him getting the shot.

Around 60,000 people are in line to get the first vaccinations and Taiwan is prioritizing health workers.

In December, Taiwan said it had agreed to buy almost 20 million vaccine doses, including 10 million from AstraZeneca.

Taiwan’s government has played down concerns about the late start to the vaccination program, saying that with such a low case rate there is not the urgency that exists in other countries where the pandemic remains rampant.

Only 33 people remain in hospital being treated for COVID-19 in Taiwan. The island has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention, including largely closing its borders. — Reuters