Taiwan rejects Covid-19 vaccine candidate, President Tsai to get other domestic shot

About 40 per cent of Taiwan's 23½ million people have received at least one of the two-dose vaccine regimen. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan has rejected an application for the emergency use of UBI Pharma's Covid-19 vaccine candidate, the government said on Monday (Aug 16), though the President said she would get a separate domestic shot in a show of support for the scheme.

Although Taiwan has ordered millions of Moderna and AstraZeneca shots, developing a local vaccine has been a major goal and the country is due next week to start administering its first domestic vaccine, made by Medigen Vaccine Biologics.

The health ministry, explaining the rejection of the request for emergency use authorisation, said the antibodies engendered by UBI's candidate did not match up with those prompted by the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, the ministry said, UBI planned phase three trials in India.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung expressed regret that the EUA had not been granted. "We still have to follow certain standards," he told reporters.

UBI, whose stock closed down 30 per cent on Monday following the rejection, did not respond to requests for comment.

In June, the company had said it would seek emergency use authorisation in Taiwan and that phase two tests showed no major adverse effects for its candidate, which, it said, generated a good immune response.

The government has drawn criticism from opposition parties after President Tsai Ing-wen initially pledged to start administering domestically developed vaccines last month, before results of second clinical trials were released.

Later, Ms Tsai said Taiwan would strictly scrutinise the process according to global scientific norms and put safety first.

Writing on her Facebook page, Ms Tsai said she would be getting her first shot of Medigen's vaccine next Monday.

About 40 per cent of Taiwan's 23½ million people have received at least one dose of the two required by the vaccine regimen.

However, unlike some other parts of Asia, Taiwan faces no huge pressure to vaccinate the populace.

The pandemic is well under control, with only a handful of domestic infections reported daily following tough controls adopted after a spike in cases that began in mid-May.

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