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Taiwan to budget NT$18.7b for COVID-19 vaccine

ROC Central News Agency

07/22/2020 11:23 PM

Taipei, July 22 (CNA) The Taiwan government will allocate NT$18.7 billion (US$635.6 million) for the development or procurement of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.

Of that amount, NT$13.5 billion will be be spent on research and development in Taiwan or procurement of a vaccine from an overseas source, while NT$5.2 billion will be held as reserve fund, said Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC.

He said the government will provide information Thursday how vaccine makers can apply for the funding.

In terms of the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, three Taiwanese firms have applied for permission to carry out human trials, Chen said, adding that that the government is willing to issue emergency use authorizations (EUAs) to streamline the approval process for high-potential vaccine candidates.

Chen's comments were the first explicit endorsement by a government official of vaccine-related EUAs in Taiwan.

He made the statements after several developers, including the National Research Institutes (NHRI), said the country had fallen behind in the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine because of onerous regulatory requirements.

Meanwhile, the CECC said Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration has granted approval to seven local manufacturers of COVID-19 tests and for the importation of 26 test kits.

Among them, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has developed a molecular test kit that has performed with 100 percent accuracy in trials by a third-party quality assessment organization, the CECC said.

In addition, the test kit is small -- approximately the size of a soda can -- and can produce results in 40 minutes, which makes it a potential choice for universal testing or at ports of entry, according to one of its developers, ITRI researcher Chen Hui-ling (陳慧玲).

Also on Wednesday, the head of National Taiwan University's College of Public Health (NTUCPH) warned that the world is "only in the third inning" of the pandemic, and Taiwan is facing five major challenges.

Taiwan's testing capacity has not yet been put under strain, its stock of therapeutic drugs is insufficient, and it has yet to develop an effective vaccine candidate, said NTUCPH Dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權).

Taiwan also cannot readily lift its border restrictions, and its public health and economic considerations cannot be easily reconciled, he said.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan, Chen Wei-ting and Matthew Mazzetta)


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