Rush for leftover COVID-19 doses in Taiwan sparks widespread criticism of DPP authority
Published: Jul 04, 2021 10:41 PM
A healthcare worker sprays disinfectant on the floor at a hospital while people wait in line for nucleic acid tests in Taipei, island of Taiwan, on Monday. Photo: VCG

A healthcare worker sprays disinfectant on the floor at a hospital while people wait in line for nucleic acid tests in Taipei, island of Taiwan, on Monday. Photo: VCG

The plight of residents rushing to scramble for left-over COVID-19 vaccines in the island of Taiwan, due to scarce doses amid the still-rampant coronavirus outbreak, brought a new round of public lambasting against Tsai Ing-wen's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority for putting political interests above public health protection. 

Taiwan's Hualien county on Saturday opened reservations for Moderna's leftover doses in the multi-dose vials, however, with only seven spots able to be reserved for unused doses at each inoculation station. This led to a fierce scramble for the vaccine. Some lined up the night before, and some rushed in a "100-meter dash" once the station opened, while some even fell down in their haste, local media reported citing online videos which have been among trending posts on Sina Weibo. 

Hualien's online reservation system flooded with 987 bookings only 30 seconds after its opening. People in line lamented that if there were enough vaccines in Taiwan, there would be no need to scramble like this. "It's the DPP authorities who are to blame for the people fighting so hard for leftover vaccine doses," a resident in line was quoted as saying by local media.

"Are these people dogs snatching grain? It's really a tragedy for Taiwan that the fight for vaccines has come to this height," a Taiwan web user commented upon the media report, while another one complained that "getting a leftover dose is even harder than grabbing a ticket of a pop star's concert in Taiwan."

Photo: screenshot of a video posted on Sina Weibo

Photo: screenshot of a video posted on Sina Weibo

Taiwan has so far used vaccines mainly from British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and the US-based Moderna. As of Sunday, only 0.2 percent of residents - 46,193 people - were fully vaccinated while 9.5 percent had at least one jab.

Street protests to demand vaccines amid increasing cases of the deadly Delta coronavirus variant broke out since the end of June, while the local authority has blocked all shots produced on the Chinese mainland - a major source of COVID-19 vaccines for the world - as it prioritizes the "Taiwan secession" ideology over life and science. 

Wang Jianmin, a senior cross-Straits expert at Minnan Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday that "it is very sad to see the vaccine shortage in the Taiwan island worsen to the present state."

The biggest failure of the DDP is to have refused vaccines from the mainland despite the high fatality rate and rapidly worsening epidemic in the island, Wang said, noting that the island has fallen from a so-called miracle to a joke during the epidemic due to the DPP's  priority on politics rather than science and human lives. 

The Tsai Ing-wen-led government not only refused mainland vaccines, but also tried to block Taiwan enterprises and civil organizations from purchasing vaccines from the mainland. This is all of out of political consideration, Wang noted.

Although the Taiwan authority made an unprecedented concession in June to allow TSMC and Foxconn to buy 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the government, mainland experts warned that Tsai would not give up her political calculations during the purchase procedure in the future.  

Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Taiwan's Foxconn, along with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), recently reached initial agreements with Shanghai-based Fosun Pharma to each buy 5 million doses of BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine which Fosun has the exclusive right to sell across whole China including thethe mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, Reuters reported on Friday.

Leftover doses refer to extra doses from multi-dose vials of the vaccine. Most AstraZeneca vials, for instance, contain up one to two extra doses which could boost supply by 10 to 20 percent, or 1 to 2 persons, though the producer has not yet recommended how they should be used.

Meanwhile, deaths among middle-aged and elderly people after having AstraZeneca shots in the island dampened motivation of those two priority groups, which pushed the quick opening of registration for leftover doses to avoid waste of the opened vials.

The Taichung city government's online registration for vaccine residue was hit more than 3 million times, more than Taichung's population of more than 2.8 million, causing its website to crash. In many other areas, there are simply not enough leftover doses to meet the needs of people who desire a jab, local media reported.  

The authorities have also failed to standardize the allocation and use of leftover doses, raising questions about lack of a transparent process that fostered privilege and corruption.