COVID-19: Vietnam to use a domestic vaccine or buy from Russia?

An illustration of a vaccine.

Vietnam health officials recently said that the development of the COVID-19 vaccine locally-made has initially had positive results.

Speaking at the COVID-19 vaccine workshop, organized by the Ministry of Health on the morning of July 22 in Hanoi, Acting Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said:

With COVID-19, there are currently four manufacturers conducting vaccines research and development in the country, including VABIOTECH (Vaccine and Biological Company), IVAC (Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biology), POLYVAC (Center for Vaccine and Medical Biology) in collaboration with National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, and NANOGEN Company. Each manufacturer has gone in different directions, initially giving positive results.”

On August 13, Dr. Do Tuan Dat, president of VABIOTECH told the press that his company has tested COVID-19 vaccine on animals. The results showed that the vaccine antigens have an immune response, ensure safety and effectiveness, and prevent COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus. Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine research and development units in the country are optimizing the process, preparing for human trials and large-scale production. VABIOTECH wants to shorten vaccine production time and is working to accelerate the research process because of that.

The Ministry of Health stated that the domestic vaccine production is a priority to ensure proactivity, and at the same time open up opportunities for vaccine cooperation and export with other countries.

Dr. Pham Nhat An, former deputy director cum head of the Department of Infectious Diseases, Central Pediatric Hospital, said:

There are currently four Vietnamese bio-companies involved in this, including cooperation with the US, sending a number of batches for inspection. Currently in the testing process, the results are unknown, but Vietnam has vaccine production vector technology to shorten the time.”

Medical doctor from Vo Xuan Son from International Clinic in Saigon believes that Vietnamese scientists are capable of understanding how dangerous to produce vaccines in the form of phase-burning, without careful research or race production. He added:

I think all Vietnamese scientists also comply with WHO regulations as well as the world’s research practices. As for the press release, it is the job of the press. I do not have enough information about it, only information in the press so I do not know how accurate it is. I trust Vietnamese medical advisors have the ability to understand the problem.”

According to information from the Ministry of Health, VABIOTECH is currently cooperating with Briston University in the UK in research and produce vaccines using virus vector technology; IVAC is also working with the US to produce this vaccine on the basis of the seasonal and pandemic flu vaccine manufacturing process; POLYVAC and NANOGEN are also in the research process, initially showing positive results. All four companies try to put in clinical trials by the end of 2020.

Talking to RFA on the morning of August 14 about research and production of COVID-19 vaccine in the country, MD Dinh Duc Long said that if there is a vaccine, it will save a lot of people. Having vaccine as soon as possible will help to improve the body’s resistance to disease. When vaccinated, the vaccine stimulates the body to build immunity that protects the body against disease. The problem raised here is whether the vaccine in Vietnam is properly ensured by the World Health Organization’s procedures. He is concerned that the COVID-19 vaccine research and development units in the country are optimizing the process. He said:

Process optimization means process change. With such a change, in the end, will the vaccine guarantee the quality? Just like the vaccine in Russia claims to be the first country in the world to have it, but a lot of scientists, even like me, have the feeling that when it comes to manufacturing so quickly, its quality is not guaranteed. The world has a unified vaccine production process. If some steps are skipped, then quality becomes bias. If it’s good then it’s okay. If not good, who will bear the consequences?

Judging a drug has immediate effects, but a long-term reaction takes time, it cannot be said to shorten it.”

Buy vaccines from Russia

At the meeting of the National Steering Committee for the prevention of COVID-19 on the morning of August 14, Minister Long said that Vietnam had ordered the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Russia. This vaccine was the first COVID-19 vaccine announced worldwide.

Vietnam and Russia have discussed about the quantity of vaccines that Vietnam can order in the range of 50 to 150 million doses, of which a part is donated by the Russian side, partly the Vietnamese side pays.

On August 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia had registered the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine called SputnikV.

The approval of the COVID-19 vaccine by Russia after less than two months of human testing has made many countries concerned and cautioned.

Right in Russia, GS. Alexander Chucalin left the Ministry of Health after an unsuccessful attempt to stop Russia’s announcement of the SputnikV vaccine. He accused two of his colleagues of rushing to put the vaccine into mass production without having been thoroughly tested for safety.

Without adequate test data, it will be difficult to trust the Russian-developed vaccine, European health experts say. German Health Minister Jens Spaln says the goal of having a safe product is more important than being the first to get vaccines for everyone.

Talking about Vietnam ordering Russian vaccines, Dr. Vo Xuan Son commented:

That’s the news in the press, but the first is whether to buy or just order? Maybe it was a free gift from the Russian side (for example). I do not know how the contents are inside, but I am confident that Vietnam will not let the safety and effectiveness of vaccines have not been validated for the Vietnamese to use. That is what I still believe until now.

MD Dinh Duc Long said that this was a political game before the 13th National Congress of the ruling party. He explained:

They put up slogans for the best of hearts, especially the upcoming party congress. They do it to win the hearts of the people, but actually buy or not, the deal is not done, buy it expensive or cheap, how high is the quality, Russia has not produced enough for their people, they have not sold it to other countries.

If Vietnam confirms to order, first they show interest in the people. Very good politically. Second, they have reason to ask from the state budget to buy vaccines to serve the people. But what is behind it, people know better than me.”

It is still unclear when Vietnam will officially order and receive the Russian COVID-19 vaccine. The selling price that Russia applies to Vietnam has not been announced yet. (Translated)


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