MUST vaccine expected to be free for Macau residents

The Covid-19 candidate vaccine currently being researched by a team led by the Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) is expected to be distributed free of charge for Macau local residents, should it prove successful.

Each vaccine is estimated to cost approximately 100 patacas to manufacture, Professor Zhang Kang, one of leading researchers on the team, told Macau Daily Times on the sideline of a press conference yesterday.

Led by MUST, the research team consists of scientists from the school, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and other Chinese institutions which have been working on a candidate vaccine based on the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Zhang expects all research procedures, human clinical trials, and manufacturing to be completed by the end of this year or early next year.

Even though production of the candidate vaccine costs approximately 100 patacas (and possibly even less than that), according to Zhang, the research team still hopes to lower the cost and make it free for Macau residents.

“The production can be fast and in large quantities,” added Manson Fok, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at MUST. “Therefore, the production can be comparatively cost-effective.”

Negotiations between the research team and manufacturers have already entered their final phase. However, the names of the candidate manufacturers remain confidential.

The first human clinical trial will be done in collaboration with one manufacturer from Taiwan. Neither the trial nor the production will have traces of Macau’s involvement, said Fok.

As explained by both Fok and Zhang, the trial requires tens of thousands of confirmed infections, which is impossible to source in Macau. In addition, Macau does not have a medical products authority to approve the manufacture.

The team plans to reserve approximately eight million vaccines for Hong Kong and Macau residents if the vaccine proves to be successful.

The research team is planning to certify the future vaccine outside of the greater China region.

“We may verify the vaccine in authorized organizations in the United States or the European Union because Macau does not have a certification authority,” Zhang told Macau Daily Times. “We probably will not certify it in mainland China because there are already many vaccines under development in mainland China.”

According to data from the World Health Organization, there are more than 150 candidate Covid-19 vaccines under development around the world. The most prestigious medical and academic institutions are currently testing those vaccines, and some have already progressed to human trials.

The professor from PolyU reaffirmed yesterday that this vaccine is likely to be the first one available for clinical use if it is effective.

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