Taiwan’s President has been immunized with the country’s first domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, as the island prepares to roll out the contentious vaccine, whose approval critics say was rushed.
Taiwan’s health ministry approved the emergency use of Medigen Vaccine Biologics’ COVID-19 vaccine last month, as part of a broader plan for vaccine self-sufficiency following delays in deliveries from global drug companies that have impacted Taiwan and many other countries.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who had previously refused to use vaccines made by Moderna or AstraZeneca, the current mainstays of Taiwan’s vaccination program, received her Medigen shot at a hospital in central Taipei to demonstrate her trust in the product.
The procedure was streamed live on her Facebook page.
She gave a brief “no” response to a reporter’s shouted question about whether she was nervous.
More than 700,000 people have already signed up for the Medigen shot, which is a two-dose protein subunit vaccine similar to the one developed by the US company Novavax.
Medigen, whose Chinese name literally translates as “high-end,” denies that its vaccine is unsafe or that it was rushed to market, claiming that it is effective and well-tested.
“We’ve done so many experiments that everyone has seen how safe our vaccine is,” Medigen CEO Charles Chen said.
“There are almost no side effects, such as fever. So I believe everyone can rest easy. ”
The recombinant protein vaccine was developed in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the United States, and the government has ordered 5 million doses to begin with. Nobody will be forced to buy it, according to the statement.
However, Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, or KMT, has launched a ferocious campaign against the shot, with one of its former vice-chairmen, Hau Lung-bin, filing a lawsuit to overturn Medigen’s approval. However, that was rejected by a court last week.
The party stated that it supported domestic vaccines, but that Medigen’s approval was rushed.
“There is no need for Taiwanese people’s lives and health to be used as white rats in a laboratory,” said Ho Chih-yung, deputy head of the KMT’s international department.
Approximately 40% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one dose of either the two-dose AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines, but less than 5% are fully vaccinated.
However, unlike in other parts of Asia, Taiwan is not under significant pressure to accelerate its vaccination campaign because it only records a handful of domestic infections per day.