Researchers at Vabiotech company taking serum samples from mice injected with a COVID-19 vaccine candidate to assess immune response in late May. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết
HÀ NỘI — With the current progress, Việt Nam is hopeful of having a safe and effective domestically made COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021, a health official said.
Nguyễn Ngô Quang, Vice Director of the Administration of Science, Technology and Training under the Ministry of Health, made the remarks at a Wednesday meeting on speeding up the COVID-19 vaccine and regulations in Việt Nam amid the current state of public health emergency.
Quang said that on average, it would take three to five years at least to develop a vaccine with standard procedures.
But now by facilitating procedures, all different stages are conducted and results reviewed nearly simultaneously, so a vaccine for the novel strain of coronavirus could be attained faster.
In clinical trials on humans, for example, after initial results from phase 1 trials where the humans are introduced to a vaccine are available, researchers can move immediately to phase 2 and continue to supervise phase 1 without needing to wait until the phase is formally concluded.
Licencing and authorisation procedures will also be facilitated, he said.
“Of course, even with this expedited timeline, the vaccine’s quality must still be ensured. The product must be able to prevent coronavirus infection based on ethical principles in medical research,” Quang said.
Nguyễn Thanh Long, acting Minister of Health, said at the meeting that the world is stretched thin in the fight against the pandemic as cases and deaths continue to soar across regions.
Việt Nam has got a good handle on the coronavirus pandemic, with no new community infections for 97 days and the majority of its confirmed tally of 408 being imported cases that were quarantined upon arrival.
However, as social distancing is only a temporary measure to prevent outbreaks that cripple the health system and public health, Long noted that the fight against the pandemic will continue to be an uphill battle when there is no vaccine.
Finding COVID-19 immunisation is currently among the priorities of many countries around the world, Long said.
“Without COVID-19 vaccines, there’s no going to back to our familiar ‘normal'," the acting health minister said.
Việt Nam is currently among 42 countries in the world that can manufacture the stock used in its own national expanded immunisation programme.
“I am hopeful that Việt Nam can make our own COVID-19 vaccine, to be able to reliably supply to Vietnamese people, but we still have mechanisms in place to gain access to vaccines made elsewhere in the world also,” the Vietnamese health official said.
Prof Dr Nguyễn Thành Long, Acting Minister of Health, spoke at the Wednesday meeting on speeding up COVID-19 vaccine production and regulation. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết
As Việt Nam’s National Regulatory Authorities (NRA) for vaccine is considered to be compliant with the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s standards, if Việt Nam comes up with a COVID-19 vaccine, it would be easy for the country to export the domestically made vaccine to other countries as well.
There are currently about 163 vaccine candidates in progress across the world, with about 23 already entering human trials and the remainder in pre-clinical trial stage.
The UK-based University of Oxford earlier this week announced that their vaccine appears to be safe and is able to cause the immune system to generate antibodies and T-cells to fight off coronavirus in a trial that involves 1,077 people.
A vaccine made in China’s Wuhan, where SARS-CoV-2 is believed to have originated and the first epicentre of the current pandemic, is also showing promise.
Currently, there are four companies and institutes – Vabiotech, Polyvac, Ivac, and Nanogen – working on a COVID-19 vaccine in Việt Nam and the initial results are promising.
The State-owned company Vabiotech, cooperating with the University of Bristol, UK, is currently the frontrunner in the vaccine race in Việt Nam, with a vaccine candidate demonstrating positive initial results on mice.
"The most important thing is that the global pandemic reminds us about the importance of partnership and international collaboration. The global pandemic has taught us that no one is safe until everyone is safe. And vaccine development and equitable access is a pathway to keep us safe," British Ambassador to Việt Nam Gareth Ward said at the meeting, adding that the UK is happy to continue the partnership with Việt Nam on vaccines and wider public health cooperation.
Acting health minister Long stressed the Vietnamese Government “welcomes all units that are capable to get involved in the researching and manufacturing of a COVID-19 vaccine.”
He has also pledged to facilitate funding for units reaching promising results and ones that can have industrial-scale manufacturing capabilities.
“We are allowed to have the ambition of being to make hundreds of millions of safe vaccine shots, not only to serve domestic needs but also for export,” Long said. — VNS