CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan mulls mix-and-match trial with local COVID-19 vaccine

07/21/2021 07:39 PM
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From left: Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director-General Chou Jih-haw, CECC advisor Chang Shan-chwen, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen, and CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang. Photo courtesy of the CECC
From left: Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director-General Chou Jih-haw, CECC advisor Chang Shan-chwen, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen, and CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang. Photo courtesy of the CECC

Taipei, July 21 (CNA) Taiwan is considering conducting a clinical trial that would test the viability of mixing a newly approved locally made COVID-19 vaccine with imported ones, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.

CECC specialist advisory panel convener Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said thought has been given to conducting a relatively small-scale clinical trial soon given that no research has been done on mixing the Taiwan-made vaccine with existing global vaccines.

If the study proved that such an approach were feasible, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) under the Ministry of Health and Welfare would officially recommend allowing that mix-and-match approach, he said.

The possibility emerged after a COVID-19 vaccine made by Taiwan-based Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. was granted emergency use authorization (EUA) by Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) on Monday, a first for a local vaccine maker.

The approval was granted even though the vaccine has only completed an expanded Phase 2 clinical trial that did not offer any data on how effectively it actually protected trial participants from getting the disease.

The EUA was granted based on the concentration of neutralizing antibodies found in trial participants compared to those found in people who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Chang did not say how a mix-and-match clinical trial would be structured and what it would test for, though it would likely use a similar approach of checking the level of antibodies produced by the combination of vaccines against those generated by two doses of the same vaccine.

Taiwan currently prohibits mixing doses due to the lack of clinical data on the practice's safety and efficacy.

But according to the CECC, local clinical trials on mixing the AstraZeneca vaccine with the Moderna brand have recently begun at National Taiwan University Hospital and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, with results expected in three months.

Chang said Taiwan is doing that trial because studies done overseas have proven that mixing the AstraZeneca vaccine with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective, but no study has been done on mixing AstraZeneca with Moderna.

The unstable supply of vaccines in Taiwan has resulted in public clamor for mixing vaccines so that people can have their second shot with whatever vaccine is available.

To date, Taiwan has only received deliveries of the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Chang Ming-hsuan and Joseph Yeh)

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Note: Taiwan
Note: Taiwan's vaccine rollout began on March 22, first with doses from AstraZeneca, then the Moderna ones on June 9.
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