TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese should feel confident about the efficacy of the nation's domestically developed COVID-19 vaccines, according to local manufacturers.
Domestic manufacturers Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. (高端疫苗 MVC) and United Biomedical. Inc. (聯亞生技UBI) have both completed phase II clinical trials. MVC on Thursday (June 10) released the trial results, which suggest that its homegrown vaccine has an over 99.8-percent chance of generating an immune response to COVID-19.
According to MVC Executive Vice President Lee Szu-Hsien (李思賢), among the company's 3,815 test subjects, just 0.7 percent experienced fever and none had a severe reaction. “The safety and efficacy of vaccines can be ensured, given the results of trials,” said Lee.
As for UBI, the results of its vaccine's second phase trials will be released by the end of June, and it will likely start being rolled out in mid-July after Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is secured. UBI plans to conduct its third phase of clinical trials in India, which will involve over 10,000 people, according to UBI Chairman Wang Chang-yi (王長怡).
Results suggest most subjects who received UBI’s COVID-19 vaccine did not experience serious side effects, though some did have a slight fever or muscle soreness, according to the company’s chief operating officer, Peng Wen-jiun (彭文君), in an interview with Fount media.
The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) pre-purchased 5 million doses each from UBI and MVC on May 28, according to a CDC press release. This amount will be expanded to 10 million depending on demand. The pre-orders will only be valid if manufacturers receive Emergency Use Authorization, Peng said.
A number of Latin American countries have pre-ordered a combined 100 million doses of the vaccine, Peng added. “Foreigners are optimistic about us. Taiwanese should be, too."
Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said on Monday (June 7) that there will no longer be self-paid vaccines going forward. He added that groupings will be vaccinated in accordance with the priority guidelines announced on Wednesday.
New priority guidelines released on June 9. (Taiwan News, Venice Tang image)
A total of 743,578 people in Taiwan, or 3.15 percent of the population, have been given at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday (June 8), according to the CDC. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has reported 1,970 adverse events following vaccination, accounting for 0.26 percent of those who have received a shot, per the CDC. Of these, 89 had a severe or life-threatening response.
Given that vaccination will be key to constraining disease transmission, Taiwan aims to vaccinate at least 65 percent of the population. This means that 15 million Taiwanese will need two jabs for full vaccination — except for those who receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
As of Wednesday, Taiwan had 2.1 million doses, including 1.24 million AstraZeneca doses donated by Japan, 609,000 AstraZeneca doses distributed by COVAX, as well as 117,000 AstraZeneca and 150,000 Moderna shots purchased by the government, the CDC said.
The Moderna, Novavax, and BioNTech vaccines result in the highest levels of neutralizing antibodies, with each offering about 95 percent efficacy against COVID-19, according to research from the Nature Medicine journal.
The Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Russia’s Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology, offers slightly less protection at 90 percent. The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines give around 60-percent protection. The Sinovac vaccine, also known as CoronaVac, developed by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, has the lowest level of protection at around 50 percent, according to the study's authors.
Vaccines provide varying degrees of protection, the researchers pointed out, and the exact proportion of a population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity remains unknown, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Herd immunity, which offers indirect protection from an infectious disease, is when a population is largely immune either through vaccination or immunity, and this effectively stops the spread of the disease.