First Taiwanese-Developed Vaccine May Be Available as Early as July

First Taiwanese-Developed Vaccine May Be Available as Early as July
Photo Credit: CNA

What you need to know

Taiwanese biopharma company MVC said Tuesday that it is looking to offer one to two million Covid-19 vaccine doses as early as July after receiving the Taiwanese Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization.

As global vaccinations speed up, one of Taiwan’s three locally-developed vaccines is coming on the market, auguring a likely boost in vaccine confidence among the public.

Taiwanese biopharma company Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation (MVC) said Tuesday that it is looking to offer one to two million Covid-19 vaccine doses as early as July after receiving the Taiwanese Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization.

On the same day, the company announced that more than 4,000 people have enrolled in the second-stage clinical trial of its Covid-19 vaccine, with around 3,700 participants having received the first injection. One-seventh of the participants received a placebo in the double-blind trial.

It is the largest clinical trial that has ever been held in Taiwan, with 11 hospitals involved in recruiting more than 3,500 participants, said Lin Tzou-yien, chief convener of the clinical trial and a board member of the National Health Research Institutes.

All the participants are scheduled to receive the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of April, MVC said. If the vaccination drive goes as expected, the company said it will apply for the Taiwanese FDA’s emergency authorization in June.

高端COVID-19疫苗二期臨床完成收案
Photo Credit: CNA
Taiwanese biopharma company Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation (MVC) held a press conference to announce the completion of their Phase 2 Trial, March 30, 2021.

Taiwan’s FDA has the power to grant emergency use authorization to the Covid-19 vaccine, which has not conducted its Phase 3 trial, to administer it to high-risk groups. MVC said it plans to carry on with the last clinical trial abroad as they seek authorization.

Experts believe a Taiwanese-developed vaccine will encourage local people to receive vaccination. In February, a poll by Taiwanese news magazine Global Views revealed that only around 60% Taiwanese above the age of 18 are willing to be vaccinated, lower than the numbers in neighboring Japan, South Korea, and the United States, and more than half of them hope to receive domestic vaccine doses as opposed to those developed in Europe and the U.S.

“The people of Taiwan place a high level of trust in the Ministry of Health and Welfare. That trust has been well-earned given its response to the pandemic so far,” said Patrick Ng, project manager at the New School for Leadership in Healthcare and co-author of the article that established the narrative of Taiwan’s successful Covid-19 response.

“If [the ministry] reviews the trial data for a domestic vaccine and grants EUA, I think many people will have greater confidence in taking something that is Made in Taiwan.”

With native development underway, the Taiwanese government has also struck deals with foreign manufacturers for around 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, including 10 million AstraZeneca and 5.05 million Moderna doses. The first batch of vaccines has been administered to medical workers across the country this month.

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Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images
The AstraZeneca office building in Brussels, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

But Ng said as many foreign manufacturers are trying to raise production capacity, there is no guarantee that their vaccine doses will be delivered to Taiwan in a timely manner.

Some orders may not be fulfilled at all. Health Minister Chen Chih-chung said Monday that Taiwan is becoming less and less likely to procure the Pfizer/BioNTech-developed vaccine, citing supply chain issues.

Instead of relying on foreign vaccines, having a domestic vaccine available will be another strategy to achieve herd immunity, Ng told The News Lens.

“A domestic manufacturer is...a hedge in case vaccines need to be modified to protect against Covid-19 variants,” he said. “That way new vaccines can be quickly made available to Taiwan. It will also better position the country to ultimately contribute towards global health security.” 

Covid-19 vaccines are developed at a record speed around the world, with at least 75 candidates currently under clinical trials and on their way to mass distribution.

Health officials, including the former health minister Yeh Ching-chua, questioned last July the government’s policy in accelerating domestic vaccine development, saying that Taiwan lags too much behind countries like the U.S., the United Kingdom, and China.

Ng said Taiwan has made an achievement as a country with 0.3% of the world’s population that has introduced three vaccine candidates, 4% of the vaccines undergoing clinical trials. “This reflects the ingenuity and capability of Taiwan’s scientific prowess,” he added.

The optimism for the first domestic vaccine seems to have been reflected in the stock market. On Tuesday, MVC’s shares hit its daily trading limit, a day before the announcement. According to business news site Anue, the company has seen its stock price soar more than 176% in the recent two months.


READ NEXT: With Vaccines in Hand, What’s Next for Taiwan’s Covid-19 Response?

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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