Taiwan announced Tuesday that it will donate 150,000 doses of the domestically developed Medigen COVID-19 vaccine to Somaliland, as part of its continued assistance to the East African state in combating the pandemic.
The pledge was made after both sides signed an agreement on the vaccine donation on Monday in Somaliland, according to a Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) press release.
MOFA said the donation is to be made as Africa faces a huge wave of Omicron variant COVID-19 cases.
According to MOFA, the health authorities in Somaliland have recently granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Medigen vaccine.
Medigen also known as the MVC COVID-19 vaccine, is the only domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine that has received EUA from Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration, and its rollout in Taiwan began on Aug. 23.
So far, no other country has granted EUA to Medigen.
Medigen’s COVID-19 vaccine is currently undergoing clinical trials in Paraguay and has also been chosen to take part in the Solidarity Trial Vaccines platform, an international clinical trial platform co-launched by the World Health Organization.
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 after years of conflict. It has offices in about a dozen countries, according to its foreign ministry’s website, but does not have formal diplomatic relations with any nation.
In February 2020, Taiwan and Somaliland signed an agreement to establish reciprocal representative offices. Taipei opened its office in Somaliland on Aug. 17 that year, while Somaliland opened its office in Taipei the following month on Sept. 9.
About Medigen COVID-19 Vaccine
The MVC COVID-19 vaccine, designated MVC-COV1901 and also known as the Medigen COVID-19 vaccine, is a protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine developed by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation in Taiwan, American company Dynavax Technologies, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
This vaccine is made by the recombinant S-2P spike protein. It is adjuvanted with CpG 1018 supplied by Dynavax, which was used in a previously FDA-approved adult hepatitis B vaccine.
On 16 February 2020, Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation (MVC) signed a collaboration agreement with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) for COVID-19 vaccine development. The partnership will allow MVC to obtain NIH’s COVID-19 vaccine and related biological materials to conduct animal studies in Taiwan. On 23 July 2020, Medigen announced a collaboration with Dynavax Technologies to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.
On 13 October 2020, MVC received Taiwan’s government subsidies for the initiation of Phase 1 Clinical Trial in Taiwan starting early October. The Phase 1 Clinical Trial was held at National Taiwan University Hospital with 45 participants ranging the age of 20–50.
On 25 January 2021, MVC initiated Phase 2 Clinical Trial for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate MVC-COV1901 with the first participant being dosed. The Phase 2 Clinical Trial for the MVC COVID-19 vaccine was a randomized, double-blinded, and multi-center clinical trial, planned to enroll 3,700 participants of any age 20 above.
On 10 June 2021, MVC released its COVID-19 vaccine Phase 2 interim analysis results, which demonstrates a good safety profile in participants. The Phase 2 Clinical Trial, in the end, included 3,800 participants with all participants receiving the second dose by 28 April 2021. MVC announced that it will request Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with the concluding of the Phase 2 Clinical Trial.
Preliminary results from Phase I trials on 77 participants were published in June 2021, indicating what the authors described as a “robust” immune system response elicited by the vaccine. The study assessed the humoral immune response by measuring quantities of binding IgG to S protein, and also the cellular immune response by measuring the quantities of IFN-γ and IL-4 secreting T cells.
On 20 July 2021, MVC filed a Phase 3 Clinical Trial IND application with Paraguay’s regulatory authority, which was later approved. The Phase 3 Clinical Trial, however, was different from the regular Phase 3 Clinical Trial, which uses an immune-bridging trial to compare the performance of the MVC COVID-19 vaccine with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The decision was a controversial announcement as immune-bridging trials were not fully approved or widely accepted by health authorities. In addition, the accuracy of immune-bridging trials were also been questioned for years.
On 26 October 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) selected the Medigen vaccine as one of its Solidarity Trial Vaccines. The trial is designed to rapidly evaluate the efficacy and safety of promising new candidate vaccines selected by an independent vaccine prioritization advisory group.
In July 2021, Medigen commenced phase II trials for adolescents aged 12–18.
On July 19, 2021, the MVC COVID-19 vaccine obtained Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) approval from the Taiwanese government after fulfilling EUA requirements set by the Taiwanese authority. The EUA, however, was met with controversy due to the lack of efficacy data and Phase 3 Clinical Trial. The EUA was granted instead based on the immunobridging study in comparison with antibody found on people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine. On August 23, 2021, President Tsai Ing-Wen was among the first Taiwanese to receive a dose of the vaccine.
In May 2021, when Taiwan experienced an outbreak of domestic cases, the government announced the vaccine would be available in July despite the result of the phase 2 trial had yet to be announced; in June 2021, the vaccine was still under clinical trial without obtained EUA, but the vaccine was sent to Taiwan FDA for the application of EUA. Seroconversion rate was used as the surrogate endpoint, though there was lack of evidence at that time. Compared to EUA of vaccine issued in the US, both Moderna and BNT/Pfizer vaccine finished interim analysis from Phase 3 study, which Medigen vaccine skipped. Wikipedia
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