The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was willing to collaborate with Taiwan on COVID-19 vaccine regulations, but did not commit to issuing emergency use authorization (EUA) of a Taiwanese-made vaccine, according to a letter from the agency to a Taiwanese drugmaker in January.
Taiwanese media on Tuesday reported that the agency had written to a Taiwanese biotech company and declared its willingness to allow for the use of a Taiwanese COVID-19 vaccine once it received an EUA in Taiwan.
Some local reports also indicated that the Philippines was interested in procuring the vaccines as long as they obtained an EUA in Taiwan.
Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque and Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr denied the reports to Manila-based broadcaster ABS-CBN.
The reports quickly drew attention in Taiwan, with some saying they worried the issue could affect Taiwan-Philippines relations.
The Presidential Office said that the Philippine government has not made any request regarding Taiwan’s as-yet unauthorized COVID-19 vaccines, and the office has asked media to correct their erroneous reports.
A copy of the letter, dated Jan. 21, obtained by the Central News Agency said: “The [Philippine] FDA recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of the TFDA [Taiwan’s FDA] in drug regulation. The FDA is open for collaboration in different aspects of drug regulations.”
A source from the Philippine government on Thursday said that the letter was a response to a Taiwanese vaccine company’s inquiries on whether the agency would recognize its Taiwanese counterpart as a competent authority.
The agency only expressed openness to work with the Taiwanese FDA on the matter of vaccine regulations, but did not make any commitments to that effect, the source said.
At least two Taiwanese biotech firms are expected to roll out COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months. Neither has started phase 3 clinical trials nor have they received an EUA in Taiwan.
Opposition parties have voiced concerns that the government might be rushing to approve domestically developed vaccines, and that EUAs for them would be granted even though they have not yet started phase 3 trials.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has said that local vaccines must meet the government’s safety and efficacy standards before they are granted an EUA.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Thursday issued a statement demanding that the government investigate news outlets reporting on the letter to determine if they had intentionally disseminated disinformation, especially as Tsai’s administration has been threatening to prosecute anyone spreading false information during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, the Tsai government has been warning the public not to spread misinformation, and contraveners could face a fine of up to NT$3 million [US$107,875]. We call on the Tsai administration to investigate the possible spread of misinformation that might have to do with domestic propaganda or the manipulation of stock prices for a specific company,” the KMT said.
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