Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) yesterday called on the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration to allocate more funds toward vaccine development in its proposed second special budget for COVID-19, saying the nation might not be able to secure enough vaccines from foreign developers.
The Executive Yuan last week unveiled its proposed second special budget of NT$210 billion (US$7.12 billion) for COVID-19 prevention and economic revitalization, which includes NT$500 million earmarked as bonuses or rewards for vaccine developers, Chiang told a news conference in Taipei.
The KMT caucus had proposed such an incentive in its draft budget proposal in February, but the DPP caucus had rejected it, before adopting it in the Executive Yuan proposal, he said.
Had the DPP accepted the KMT’s proposal at the time, it would have accelerated the nation’s vaccine development efforts, which are lagging behind the UK, US and EU, he said.
The government should consider injecting more funds as incentives to pharmaceutical companies to bring the nation’s vaccine development up to speed, he said.
The second special budget proposal would allocate NT$13.5 billion to vaccine development, of which NT$11.5 billion would be used to procure vaccines manufactured by developers overseas, he said.
However, as Taiwan has not contributed financially to these foreign teams’ research and development (R&D) of vaccines and is not a member of any international R&D team, the government might not be able to secure the 15 million doses that it hopes to purchase, Chiang said.
Instead, the US, which is a major sponsor of several vaccine projects, the UK and less developed nations are likely to be the first to be able to purchase the vaccines, he said.
Local health authorities should also relax rules on vaccine testing if necessary, he said.
For example, the number of subjects required for a vaccine to pass a second-stage clinical trial used to be 3,000, but the Centers for Disease Control has streamlined that number to 1,000 after referring to standards adopted by the WHO and Japan, he said.
Only when vaccines are introduced can nations lift border restrictions and their economy be revitalized, he said.
Living With Hope Organization chairman Arthur Chen (陳宜民) said the US has Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership dedicated to the development of COVID-19 vaccines, but Taiwan’s pharmaceutical companies do not have a unifying body to oversee such efforts.
There is also a lack of government agencies to push efforts to initiate collaborations between local pharmaceutical firms and foreign research teams, he said.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare should clarify whether local firms that seek to partner with foreign teams are also eligible for the bonuses, he said.
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