CORONAVIRUS/First COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in March at earliest: CECC

12/30/2020 08:55 PM
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Photo source: Pexels
Photo source: Pexels

Taipei, Dec. 30 (CNA) Taiwan is in the process of buying 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from foreign suppliers and expects the first delivery in March at the earliest, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said in a statement Wednesday.

The CECC has secured access to 4.76 million doses of vaccine through the international COVAX allocation program and 10 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the statement said.

Talks with another international company to buy 5 million doses of its vaccine are nearing a conclusion, it said.

"The possible first delivery is expected to be made in March 2021 at the earliest," the CECC said.

The center has already planned a "cold-chain system" required for the shipment of the vaccines, allowing them to be kept at very low temperatures from point of manufacture to point of administration, it added.

The center emphasized that vaccines play an urgent and necessary role in the control and prevention of the spread of the coronavirus and in safeguarding people's health.

As the market is currently controlled by suppliers, the CECC said it will procure vaccines through multiple channels, including the COVAX platform and individual drug makers, as well as domestic producers, so as not to put all Taiwan's eggs in one basket.

It did not disclose exactly which vaccines Taiwan will acquire, apart from the AstraZeneca product.

Meanwhile, Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. (MVC), one of three domestic companies in the process of developing a COVID-19 vaccine, has obtained approval from the Food and Drug Administration to enter Phase 2 investigational new drug trials of a vaccine currently in development, MVC-COV1901.

The approval came a day earlier, MVC said in a press release Wednesday.

"MVC has completed preclinical toxicology tests, hamster challenge studies and has prepared a Phase 1 clinical trial interim analysis report. All data shows that MVC-COV1901 offers a good safety profile and strong immunogenicity against COVID-19," the company said.

It is the only domestic vaccine developer to have been given an encouraging green light in clinical trials, while Adimmune Corp. was advised to re-execute its dosage escalation after failing to determine the appropriate dose in its Phase 1 trial.

The third developer, United Biomedical, expects to offer complete data on its Phase 1 trial by January, according to the CECC.

Asked about the MVC vaccine, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the CECC, said that currently, the company's output is still limited and its production process needs to be improved to achieve sufficient yield to meet demand.

He expressed hope that domestic output can be increased in time, following the delivery of the 20 million doses of foreign vaccines, to allow the government to reach its goal of securing 30 million doses for Taiwanese people, Chen said.

At the required two doses per person, 30 million doses will cover about 65 percent of Taiwan's population to produce herd immunity in the nation, according to the CECC.

Under the CECC's plans, medical affairs personnel are at the top of the priority list of COVID-19 vaccine recipients, followed by government officials and employees working for epidemic control affairs (including those serving at airports), and personnel maintaining social order (such as police and military police).

People working at daycare, healthcare and long-term care centers (including migrant workers in these facilities), are 4th on the list, followed by military personnel, people aged 65 or older, people suffering from high-risk diseases, and patients with rare diseases or severe wounds and diseases.

The last group in turn on the list are people aged between 50 and 64, according to the CECC.

(By Yu Hsiao-han, Chen Wei-ting and Elizabeth Hsu)

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