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How US COVID-19 Vaccine Donations Will Affect Taiwan’s Pandemic Recovery

Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Last updated on August 25, 2021

COVID-19 cases continue to decline as vaccines are distributed nationally. The reopening process has begun in several states, recently including California, as of last week. With the United States stabilizing themselves, they are now able to turn their efforts to other countries, which are suffering from the deadly disease.

An Unexpected Surge 

Taiwan, a nation that originally appeared to be relatively untouched by the virus, was hit hard towards the beginning of May. As of June 20, the CDC confirms 549 deaths on the island, a large leap compared to the couple dozen reported since the beginning of the pandemic. 

A Vaccine Donation Put Into Effect

Seeing that Taiwan was struggling, the United States offered to give approximately 750,000 doses to the government to distribute to their people. However, they changed this agreement and nearly tripled the number of vaccines to 2.5 million doses of Moderna. Early this month, Taiwan also received a vaccine donation of around 1.24 doses of AstraZeneca provided by Japan. Together, there are 3.74 doses for the 24 million inhabitants of the island.

Despite their large accumulation of vaccines, a majority of the population is not vaccinated with two doses, let alone one. According to Mathew Strong with the Taiwan news, the top vaccinated city, Lienchiang, has a vaccination percentage of 9.48, followed by Taipei and Chiayi City with sub 5 percent vaccination rates. These cities do not consist of very large populations, given that the island is relatively small.

Vaccinations appear to be the primary way out of the spike crisis. To successfully achieve herd immunity, Taiwan is attempting to achieve a 70 percent vaccination rate (Taiwan Factcheck Center).

The Vaccines

The United States provided a large amount of Moderna, whereas Japan donated Oxford-AstraZeneca. What is the difference between the two vaccines and how does each one work?

According to the CDC, Moderna is a mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine. When the shot is received in one’s arm, the mRNA goes to the immune cells where they make a protein piece. From here, the protein moves to the surface of the cell where it is displayed. Antibodies are created in response to the placing of the protein because one’s body is able to recognize that the protein does not belong where it is currently located. This process allows cells to build memory and recognize when this happens again, thus ultimately ensuring the receiver with immunity. 

The Oxford-AstraZeneca is a DNA vaccine rather than a RNA one like Moderna. In this, the adenoviruses, or , attach to proteins on the top of the cell. Next, it is engulfed by the cell and pulled inside, where it travels to the nucleus of the cell and the DNA is incorporated. Spike proteins for the coronavirus are activated and copied into mRNA. These spike proteins group once they exit the nucleus and surround the cell. On top of this, the cell signals the rest of the body and excites the immune system (NYT).

China Intervenes

Claiming political authority to Taiwan, China, although unable to produce any effective vaccines, offered to supply Taiwan with their own creations. Additionally, they fought to prevent outside countries from giving their vaccines delaying the distribution process.

A Step Towards Progress

Vaccines are now available to a very wide array of people in many different countries spanning around the globe due to their mass production. Although Covid-19 has proven to be unpredictable and very dangerous, successful vaccinations offer a promising look for life to return to normal once more.

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