TAIPEI - Taiwan's Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp said on Tuesday it will start a late-stage clinical trial this year in Paraguay for its COVID-19 vaccine, part of the island's push to make its own shots against the coronavirus.
Taiwan's government on Monday approved the emergency use and production of Medigen's vaccine despite criticism from opposition parties the vaccine has yet to finish final clinical trials and with no efficacy data available.
Health authorities in Paraguay have allowed Medigen to run the Phase III trial involving 1,000 volunteers for the shot, MVC-COV1901, the Taiwan-based company said in a filing to the stock exchange.
Medigen said the trial is scheduled to complete in the third quarter and data would be available in the fourth quarter, adding the move will help expand the company's footprint in Central and South America.
Paraguay is one of only 15 countries still to maintain formal diplomatic ties with Chinese-claimed Taiwan.
Taiwan's health ministry has said there were no major safety concerns during Phase II trials in Taiwan and studies so far have shown that antibodies created were just as good as those created by AstraZeneca's vaccine.
The government's decision to issue the EUA, however, has sparked outcry from Taiwan's main opposition, the Kuomintang (KMT).
On Tuesday it filed corruption charges against health officials and called for the authorities to give more information on how the EUA decision was made.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung dismissed the move, saying it would "only frustrate people who want to get on with things".
"I personally think this is not a good thing," he told reporters.
Developing its own vaccine has been a major goal of Taiwan's government, whose vaccination programme was delayed by global supply shortages and had seen a rare uptick in domestic cases in May, although the outbreak is now under control.
Medigen's shares closed up 10% on Tuesday after the EUA announcement, compared with a 1.5 % fall in the broader market.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee, editing by Louise Heavens) ((email@example.com; +886-2-8729-5122;))