TAIPEI: President Tsai Ing-wen got vaccinated with Taiwan’s first domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine on Monday (Aug 23), giving her personal stamp of approval as the island begins rolling out the contested shot whose approval critics say has been rushed.
The health ministry last month approved the emergency use of Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp’s COVID-19 vaccine, part of a broader plan for inoculation self-sufficiency as delays in vaccine deliveries from global drug companies have affected Taiwan and many other countries.
Tsai, who had held off using vaccines from Moderna or AstraZeneca, the current mainstay of Taiwan’s vaccination programme, received her Medigen shot at a hospital in central Taipei, demonstrating her confidence in the safety of the vaccine.
Tsai chatted to medical workers as they prepared her shot, the whole process being broadcast live on her Facebook page, and gave a short response of “no” to a shouted question from reporters about whether she was nervous.
“It doesn’t hurt, I’m in good spirits, and I’m going to continue working for the day,” she later wrote on Facebook.
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.
The government says the initial experience of the pandemic last year, when basic supplies such as face masks were in short supply, made it realise they had to be able to rely on themselves for critical materials.
Medigen, whose Chinese name literally means “high-end”, rejects claims its vaccine is either unsafe or that it has been sent to market with undue haste, saying it is effective and well tested.
“We have done so many experiments, everyone has seen how safe our vaccine is. There are so few side effects, almost no fever and so on. So I think everyone can rest assured,” Medigen’s Chief Executive Officer Charles Chen told Reuters.