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《TAIPEI TIMES》 First Merck COVID-19 drug batch arrives


A baggage tug at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday pulls a trailer loaded with 2,016 courses of molnupiravir antiviral pills for COVID-19 after they arrived from Chicago. 
Photo courtesy of a member of the public via CNA

A baggage tug at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday pulls a trailer loaded with 2,016 courses of molnupiravir antiviral pills for COVID-19 after they arrived from Chicago. Photo courtesy of a member of the public via CNA

2022/01/25 03:00

/ Staff writer, with CNA

A first batch of 2,016 courses of molnupiravir, an oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19, arrived in Taiwan yesterday morning.

The delivery of the antiviral pills, made by US drugmaker Merck, was originally scheduled to be completed in phases after the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins on Saturday and runs through Sunday next week.

However, thanks to intensive efforts by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), the first batch arrived earlier than expected from the US .

The batch arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 5:18am on EVA Air Flight BR641 from Chicago.

After disinfection operations were completed, the pills were transported to a storage facility before customs clearance and transportation procedures were completed.

Molnupiravir can be administered immediately after a positive COVID-19 test and within five days of the onset of symptoms, CECC specialist advisory panel convener Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said earlier this month.

It is recommended for use in adults with mild to moderate COVID-19, who have no other suitable treatment options and have at least one risk factor for developing a severe illness, he said.

It is important that people receiving the drug complete the full five-day course and continue isolating to maximize viral clearance and minimize risk of transmission, Chang said.

While 80 percent of all COVID-19 cases have mild symptoms, about 9 percent of those with mild symptoms can become seriously ill or die, said the CECC, citing international research.

The major risk factors for developing severe illness include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and cancer, the CECC said.

Other factors include people who are immunocompromised or whose immunity is inhibited by certain treatments, as well as people who are 60 or older or who are pregnant.

In Taiwan, mild to moderate cases have accounted for 84 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a fatality rate of 4.6 percent, data compiled by the CECC showed yesterday.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Jan. 11 announced that it had granted emergency use authorization for molnupiravir.

The CECC purchased a total of 10,000 courses, the rest of which are expected to arrive after the Lunar New Year holiday.

On Jan. 13, the FDA issued a special import permit for molnupiravir.

The CECC said that 5,040 courses of molnupiravir would be distributed to designated hospitals responsible for the care of COVID-19 cases in government quarantine facilities and enhanced quarantine hotels.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) yesterday confirmed that a shipment of about 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive today or tomorrow.

He said that as of Sunday, the nation’s first-dose vaccination rate was 81.16 percent, full vaccination rate was 73.59 percent and booster dose rate was 16.64 percent.

Additional reporting by Lee I-chia

新聞來源:TAIPEI TIMES