Taiwan's UBI to seek usage approval for COVID vaccine candidate

TAIPEI, June 27 (Reuters) - Taiwan’s UBI Pharma said on Sunday it would seek an emergency use authorisation (EUA) for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate after trials showed it was safe and effective.

Developing its own vaccine has been a major goal of Taiwan’s government, although it has also ordered some 20 million shots from Moderna, AstraZeneca and the COVAX global sharing scheme for lower income countries.

Only about 7% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one shot, with further supplies held up by global production problems, as the island deals with a cluster of domestic cases after months of relative calm.

UBI said that phase II tests showed no major adverse effects for its vaccine candidate, which generated a good immune response, and EUA documents will be sent to the government before the end of June.

Once the EUA is received, UBI said it can produce 100-120 million doses annually. The company added it will also speed up phase III trials in India, where it has 11,000 test subjects.

Taiwan’s government last month signed deals with UBI and another local firm, Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp, for five million doses each, and has agreements for another five million each, for a total of 20 million shots.

The government hopes to start administering domestically developed vaccines next month.

It has come under criticism from opposition parties after President Tsai Ing-wen pledged last month to start administering domestically developed vaccines in July, before results of second clinical trials were released.

Tsai later said Taiwan would strictly scrutinise the process under international scientific norms and put safety first. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Alexander Smith)