TAIPEI - Taiwan's government on Monday approved the use and production of Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, a major step in the island's plans to develop its own vaccines to protect against the coronavirus.
Taiwan-based Medigen said last month it was seeking a speedy emergency use authorization, or EUA, from the government for its vaccine candidate after safely completing Phase II trials.
Developing its own vaccine has been a major goal of Taiwan's government, though it also has ordered some 20 million shots from Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca and the COVAX global sharing scheme.
The health ministry said in clinical trials in Taiwan the antibodies created by Medigen's vaccine candidate have been proven to be "no worse than" those created by AstraZeneca PLC vaccines, and that there were no major safety concerns.
The ministry added that Medigen had to present a monthly report on safety for the vaccine candidate, MVC-COV1901, which is designed for people aged over 20, who will get 2 shots 28 days apart.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters that with the EUA approved, it would now take some time for the company to ramp up its production.
"There should be a small amount of supply available in August," he added.
The recombinant protein vaccine has been developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the United States.
Taiwan's government in May signed deals with Medigen, and another firm developing a domestic vaccine, UBI Pharma, for 5 million doses each, and has agreements for another 5 million each, for a total of 20 million shots.
The EUA for UBI's vaccine candidate is still pending.
Taiwan has massively ramped up its vaccination program in the last month following the donation of almost 6 million vaccine doses from Japan and the United States and the gradual arrival of vaccines directly ordered from manufacturers.
Around 20 percent of Taiwan's 23.5 million people have received at least 1 of the 2-shot vaccine regimen.