Taiwan banking on homegrown Medigen vaccine

Taiwan is relying on domestic Covid-19 vaccination to speed up its vaccination program as the island and many countries struggle to secure vaccine supplies from large pharmaceutical companies.

The locally made Covid vaccine from Medigen Vaccine Biologics was featured last week President Tsai Ing-wen receives her first shot of the two-dose vaccine last Monday.

Medigen’s vaccine was developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the US The vaccine – like that of Novavax – is based on a technology called recombinant protein that uses part of the coronavirus protein to trigger an immune response.

Around 600,000 people in Taiwan were vaccinated with the Medigen vaccine last week, the company’s chairman Charles Chen told CNBC.Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

Some critics have questioned the approval of Medigen’s vaccine. Health authorities cleared the vaccine for emergency use in July after completing only phase 2 clinical trials in Taiwan with no available efficacy data.

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

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

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

Medigen said in July that it had received Approval to conduct a phase 3 clinical trial for his Covid vaccine in Paraguay.

Deliveries of Covid vaccines

Taiwan’s vaccination program got off to a slow start as it – like many governments around the world – faced challenges in securing supplies of Covid vaccines.

The island, with a population of around 24 million, has received more than 10 million doses of Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, according to Unicef. That includes nearly 6 million cans donated by the US and Japan, the data showed.

Around 42% of Taiwan’s population have received at least one shot of the Covid vaccine, less than 4% of which are fully vaccinated, according to statistics from the online repository Our World in Data.

While Taiwan reported very few Covid infections last year, the island’s cases skyrocketed in May. Nevertheless, Taiwan’s cumulative number of cases remains relatively low. The number of daily reported cases on the island has since decreased, in contrast to many of its Asian neighbors who are still struggling with swelling infections.

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

Public well being prof on Taiwan outbreak, vaccination progress

The recent Covid-19 outbreak in Taiwan is a lesson that a containment strategy that targets zero local transmission may not be sustainable in the long term, a public health professor said Tuesday.

Before the recent explosion in cases, Taiwan had reported very few Covid infections for over a year – and most were imported. This allowed daily activities to continue largely normally and the island received international praise for its containment measures.

But it made Taiwan “completely vulnerable” to new variants of the coronavirus that are more communicable and potentially more serious, said Benjamin Cowling, professor and head of the epidemiology and biostatistics department at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health.

“Probably less than 1% of their population had a natural infection, and therefore natural immunity, and … less than 1% have been vaccinated – so they are almost entirely susceptible,” Cowling told CNBC.Squawk Box Asia. “

Taiwan, with a population of around 24 million, reported more than 8,500 confirmed Covid cases and 124 deaths as of Monday. official data showed.

It is a warning to other parts of Asia that this strategy of elimination is also trying, it is not necessarily sustainable in the long run.

Benjamin Cowling

Hong Kong University School of Public Health

Cowling said Taiwan will have a hard time controlling the recent outbreak. Authorities may need tougher social distancing measures as testing capacity hasn’t been ramped up enough and the island’s vaccination progress has been slow, he added.

“It is a warning to other parts of Asia that are also trying this elimination strategy, it is not necessarily sustainable in the long term,” said the professor.

Asian economies have generally shown lower tolerance to Covid infection compared to their competitors in other regions.

Governments in Hong Kong and Singapore, for example, have quickly tightened measures to curb small upward movements in cases. Meanwhile, countries like the US and UK are still reporting thousands of cases every day, but faster vaccination has allowed countries to lift restrictions.

Like many of its regional competitors in Asia, Taiwan faced challenges in securing Covid vaccines, Cowling said. Part of Taiwan’s hurdle is politics, the professor said.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said inwen a facebook post Last week the government bought vaccines made by. were developed AstraZeneca and Modern. She accused China block a deal with Germany BioNTech, which developed a vaccine together with US Pharma Pfizer.

Beijing rejects Tsai’s allegations.

China claims Taiwan as a runaway province that will one day have to be reunited with the mainland – if necessary by force. The Chinese Communist Party has never ruled Taiwan, which is a democratic, self-governing island.

“There are a lot of policies out there when it comes to getting vaccines into Taiwan,” Cowling said. “I think they will do it, but right now they won’t be able to vaccinate enough people to stop the current outbreak. They have to use social distancing and bans to deal with it.”