Taiwan has rolled out a domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine to the public, with President Tsai Ing-wen receiving her first dose at a Taipei hospital to demonstrate her confidence in the safety of the jab.
Made by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp., the vaccine was given emergency approval by regulators in July using a shortcut that prompted fierce opposition from parts of Taiwan’s medical and scientific community.
Tsai, who had held off on taking a vaccine from Moderna or AstraZeneca, the current mainstay of Taiwan’s vaccination programme, received her Medigen shot on Monday.
The president chatted to medical workers as they prepared her shot and answered a simple “No” to a question reporters called out asking if she was nervous. The whole process was broadcast live on her Facebook page.
More than 700,000 people have signed up so far to receive the Medigen vaccine, which requires a second shot 28 days after the first one.
Developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the US, the Medigen vaccine uses a piece of the coronavirus to teach the body to mount an immune response.
The vaccine has yet to finish its clinical trials and no efficacy data is available but Taiwanese regulators approved the jab after comparing the level of antibodies Medigen was able to generate with that of AstraZeneca, which has been approved by many governments and has undergone the full three stages of clinical trials.
They said the data provided showed that Medigen produced 3.4 times the level of neutralising antibodies as AstraZeneca and said Medigen will be required to submit real-world efficacy data within a year of the approval.
The decision to give approval based on the new standard prompted an expert from the advisory committee on vaccines to resign.