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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Taiwan rolls out homegrown Covid-19 vaccine amid criticism from Opposition

The vaccine is yet to complete its phase 3 trials and no efficacy data is available at present.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 23, 2021 8:17:58 pm
taiwanTaiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, center, receives her first shot of the island's first domestically developed coronavirus vaccine made by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. at the Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP)

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday received her first shot of Medigen at a hospital in Tapei, kicking off the rollout of the domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine.

In a Facebook post after receiving the vaccine, Tsai wrote, “Taking the vaccine can protect yourself, your family, as well as medical staff. Let’s do our part in boosting Taiwan’s collective defense against the virus!”

Amid allegations that Medigen’s approval has been rushed, Tsai’s public show of support for the vaccine was meant to be a confidence-building measure. Reporters were present as Tsai turned up to take the shot and the whole process was broadcast live on her Facebook page.

Medigen — the name means “high-end” in Chinese — is a recombinant protein vaccine administered in two doses with a gap of 28 days in between.

More than 700,000 people have signed up so far to receive the Medigen vaccine, and the Taiwanese government has ordered an initial five million doses.

The vaccine was developed by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the US.

Why there has been opposition to the nod given to Medigen vaccine

The decision to grant emergency approval to the Medigen vaccine has evoked strong criticism from opposition politicians and the scientific community in Taiwan, Reuters reported. The vaccine is yet to complete its phase 3 trials and no efficacy data is available so far. The final round of trials is expected to be completed in Paraguay later this year.

After the vaccine was given the nod, an expert from the advisory committee on vaccines in the country resigned. Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), has been vocal in its opposition to the vaccine.

“There is no need for the lives and health of the Taiwanese people to serve as white rats in a laboratory,” Ho Chih-yung, the deputy head of the KMT’s international department, told the Reuters.

KMT vice-chairman Hau Lung-bin had earlier filed a lawsuit to invalidate Medigen’s authorisation, but it was rejected in court.

Vaccine completely safe, say manufacturers

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control issued a statement on July 19 saying that the Medigen vaccine has no serious health effects.

The vaccine manufacturers have also tried to brush away public concerns regarding the jab.

“We have done so many experiments, everyone has seen how safe our vaccine is. There are so few side effects, almost no fever and so on. So, I think everyone can rest assured,” Medigen’s Chief Executive Officer Charles Chen told Reuters.

Paul Torkehagen, Medigen’s director of overseas business development, told CNN that a large phase 2 clinical trial, which had 3,800 participants, has ensured the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. According to Chen, 99.8% of the participants developed antibodies after taking two doses of the vaccine.

Taiwan has been largely successful in containing Covid-19 spread, with less than 16,000 total confirmed infections and 828 deaths reported till date.

A total of 40 per cent of Taiwan’s population of 23 million have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and less than 5 per cent received both doses.

On Monday, Taiwan reported four fresh cases, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center. Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung has said that current restrictions, which include closure of bars and nightclubs, would remain in place until at least September 6.

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