Local vaccines not cheaper than foreign ones: Taiwan health head

File photo of Health Minister Chen Shih-chung speaking at a Legislative Yuan meeting. (Photo courtesy of the Legislative Yuan via NOWnews)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) revealed on Thursday that the planned price tags of the upcoming Taiwan-made vaccines will be slightly higher than their foreign counterparts, which are priced at NT$750 per dose on average.

Chen said that he could not disclose the exact costs of each product but explained that prices always vary when calculating the costs, even for vaccines from abroad.

During a meeting at the Legislative Yuan, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, 民進黨) Legislator Jan Chyi-lu (張其祿) asked about why the government was willing to buy more expensive vaccines.

Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) expressed his displeasure at the question and quipped: “You say we aren’t able to buy vaccines, and now you say we are paying too much. What are we supposed to do?”

The tense exchange followed an announcement by the Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation (高端疫苗生物製劑股份有限公司) a day earlier that the MVC vaccine passed the second phase of testing, meaning that the company will apply for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA, 緊急疫苗使用授權).

Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (衛福部次長) Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) revealed that the vaccine still must be assessed to pass the EUA, but currently isn’t scheduled to do so.

Shih also expressed that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) goal to start vaccinations using the MVC vaccine by the end of July would be achieved.

The deputy minister also confirmed that the MVC vaccine can start to be manufactured when applying for the EUA and will be able to supply small amounts by July.

When DPP Legislator Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅) inquired about the other local vaccine developer, Shih further revealed that the completion of assessment for United Biomedical’s (聯亞) vaccine was one month behind the MVC vaccine.