Taiwanese bank on homemade Medigen vaccine

Taiwan is banking on a domestic Covid-19 coup to accelerate its inoculation program as the island and several countries struggle to secure vaccine deliveries from major pharmaceutical companies.

The Covid vaccine produced locally by Medigen Vaccine Biologics was launched last week, with President Tsai Ing-wen receiving his first shot of the two-dose vaccine last Monday.

The Medigen vaccine was developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the United States The vaccine – like that of Novavax – is based on a technology called recombinant protein, which uses a portion of the coronavirus protein to induce an immune response.

Last week, about 600,000 people in Taiwan were inoculated with the Medigen vaccine, the company’s executive director Charles Chen told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

Some critics have questioned the approval of the Medigen vaccine. Health authorities cleaned the vaccine for emergency use of July after completing only two phases of clinical trials in Taiwan with no efficacy data available.

Chen told CNBC that it was not possible to conduct a “traditional efficacy trial” because Taiwan’s infection rate is “so low.” Such a process typically involves a comparison between a vaccinated group and a control group that does not receive the vaccine, he explained.

Instead, Medigen used a method called “immunobridging” to infer the level of vaccine protection based on immune responses in participants in the trial.

“We will say that our protection will be … the same or even better than AstraZeneca,” Chen said.

Medigen said in July that he received it approval to conduct a phase three clinical trial for his Covid vaccine in Paraguay.

Delivery of Covid vaccines

Taiwan’s inoculation program has gone to a slow start since – like many governments around the world – it has faced challenges to secure deliveries of Covid vaccines.

The island, with a population of about 24 million, has received more than 10 million doses of Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, according to public data compiled by Unicef. This includes nearly 6 million doses donated by the United States and Japan, data show.

About 42% of Taiwan’s population has received at least one stroke of the Covid vaccine, of which less than 4% have been completely vaccinated, according to statistics compiled by the online repository Our World to Date.

While Taiwan reported very few Covid infections last year, cases on the island jumped in May. However, Taiwan’s cumulative case remains relatively low. Then, the number of cases reported every day on the island decreased, on the contrary many of their Asian neighbors who are still struggling with growing infections.

The island has reported 15,995 confirmed cases and 835 deaths since the beginning of last year, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said Tuesday.

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