On Monday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen received her first dose of the domestically developed coronavirus vaccine on the island.
The vaccine is made by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. It has received emergency approval from regulators in July using a shortcut. It has sparked fierce opposition from parts of Taiwan’s scientific and medical community.
Taiwanese regulators overlooked the large-scale, longer-term studies typically used to approve vaccines. Instead, they compared the level of antibodies that Medigen’s vaccine could generate with that of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has been approved by many governments and has undergone all three stages of clinical trials.
Madigan’s two-dose protein subunit vaccine uses a part of the coronavirus to teach the body to mount an immune response. The decision to give approval based on the new rule caused an expert on the vaccine advisory committee to resign.
Critics say that approving the completion of complete clinical trials does not provide adequate information on how effective the vaccine is in the real world at protecting against Covid-19. However, initial studies may have promising results.
The level of antibodies in the blood is known to correlate with protection against disease. Still, scientists do not yet know what the exact story is. Regulators said Medigen would be required to submit real-world efficacy data within a year of approval. In approving the vaccine, they said data provided by Medigen showed it produced 3.4 times the level of neutralizing antibodies as AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
Tsai received her first dose of the vaccine Monday morning at a gym at National Taiwan University in Taipei. Like other patients, she signed up for her appointment by inserting her national health insurance card into the computer system. After a nurse gave her the injection, she showed an OK sign with her hand.
As of last Friday, 40% of Taiwan’s population of 23 million had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The island’s vaccination policy prioritizes the first injections, with only the highest-risk groups initially receiving the two total doses, such as medical workers.
That’s a big jump from May when less than 5% of the population had received a vaccine.
Taiwan had mainly been Covid-19 free for a year and a half during the pandemic until an outbreak fueled by the alpha variant swept across the island in May, prompting a full-scale lockdown.
At that time, Taiwan had received only about 700,000 doses of the vaccines it had purchased. However, he was able to obtain approximately 5 million vaccines that Japan and the United States donated.