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UPDATE 2-Moderna to supply COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan and Colombia

(Recasts, adds Taiwan government comment)

Feb 10 (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Moderna Inc will supply its COVID-19 vaccine to the governments of Taiwan and Colombia, the company said, providing five million and 10 million doses respectively.

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is not yet approved for use in Taiwan or Colombia and the company’s statement said it will work with regulators to pursue necessary approvals prior to distribution.

Deliveries are expected to begin in mid-2021, the company added.

Late in December Taiwan said it had agreed to buy almost 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, including 10 million from UK drugmaker AstraZeneca, with the rest coming from the COVAX global vaccine programme and an unnamed company.

Taiwan has not previously announced the Moderna deal and has kept details of its vaccine plans largely under wraps, citing commercial confidentiality.

Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters the vaccines, which will need to be administered as two shots 28 days apart, were expected to start arriving around May or June, with an agreement signed for 5.05 million doses.

“We will endeavour to push them to provide them as quickly as possible,” Chen said on Wednesday.

This week Taiwan’s government said it would also receive 200,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX, with shots possibly starting next month.

The government has moved to assure its people it is working hard to ensure access to vaccines and is also developing vaccines domestically, though at a slower pace.

However, officials have also indicated that with the pandemic under control in Taiwan there is not the pressing need for vaccines that some other countries are facing. There are currently only 73 active cases being treated in hospital.

Germany last week ducked an appeal by Taiwan for its help to supply COVID-19 vaccines. Berlin had earlier asked the Asian tech powerhouse to ease a semiconductor supply crunch in the auto industry, potentially provoking China’s ire.

Vaccines supplies are tight globally in any case. (Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei Editing by Lincoln Feast and David Goodman)

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