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Taiwan signs deal for 10 million doses of domestically-made COVID vaccines

Taiwan vaccine companies plan to apply for emergency authorization by end of June

(Unsplash photo)

(Unsplash photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Sunday (May 30) announced the government has signed agreements to purchase 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from two domestic firms.

CECC Spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) announced that on Friday (May 28), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) signed agreements with United Biomedical Inc. (聯亞生技) and Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. (高端疫苗) to purchase 5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines from each company.

The contracts with the two companies are flexible, enabling the center to purchase a maximum of up to 10 million doses from each company, for a total of 20 million doses. Given that these new vaccines will require two doses, these will be enough for 10 million citizens.

Experts estimate that Taiwan will need to inoculate at least 15 million people to achieve herd immunity. The domestic vaccines, combined with nearly 20 million doses purchased from abroad, including 5.05 million doses from Moderna, 10 million from Astra Zeneca, and 4.76 million other brands through COVAX, should be enough to fully inoculate most of Taiwan's population of 23 million.

Health and Welfare Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said the strategy to acquire COVID vaccines was devised last year. The first option was to obtain authorization to locally manufacture vaccines designed by foreign companies.

The second option was to purchase vaccines from foreign pharmaceutical companies, while the third option was to develop domestic vaccines. Of these three approaches, Chen said that purchasing vaccines from overseas may be the fastest way to obtain immunity.

However, he pointed out that restrictions on availability and usage rights for foreign vaccines have shown the production of domestically-developed vaccines is also important. Thus far, Taiwan has only been able to provide 378,277 people with their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or about 1.5 percent of its population.

Clinical trials for three vaccines began August 2020, with Hsinchu-based Medigen's "MVC-COV1901 Vaccine" and United Biomedical's vaccine "UB-612" now in the final stages of phase II clinical trials. Both firms anticipate being able to apply for emergency authorization of their vaccines as soon as the end of June, with the goal of having the first doses ready for use by the end of July.