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Vietnam offers to build Covid-19 vaccine factory for global supply

Jasmine Le Jasmine Le

lehang1997hanu@gmail.com

June 03, 2021 | 06:12

The establishment of a domestic Covid-19 vaccine production factory would help Vietnam become proactive in vaccine sources while supplying it to Covax and other countries as well.

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Vietnam offers to build Covid-19 vaccine factory for global supply
At the online meeting (Photo: VNE)

By building a domestic vaccine factory, Vietnam Health Ministry wants to join the Covid-19 vaccine tech transfer process, thereby producing vaccines for Vietnam and other countries. The proposal was made by Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long at the online meeting with Covax Facility Monday evening.

Vietnam has been hastening progress on purchasing and receiving technologies for Covid-19 vaccine production so that the country could be proactive in its vaccination coverage.

“Vietnam would invest in the factories and wish to be allowed franchising so that we could supply coronavirus vaccine for Covax, other countries and Vietnam,” Long said. He also pledged to representative of Covax and WHO to partake in the vaccine tech transfer process.

Vietnam highly appreciates the initiative of vaccine alliance GAVI and the WHO in creating the Covax mechanism, which aims to ensure equitable vaccine access to member countries, mostly low-income ones. The mechanism has earlier promised to supply 2 billion doses in 2o21.

“This is an opportunity for all low-income countries to access to the vaccine sources,” the minister added.

To date, Vietnam has received nearly 2.6 million doses of the Bristish –Sweden AstraZeneca vaccine sourced via Covax Facility. The country is expecting another 36.3 million doses from Covax until year end.

The health ministry added Vietnam would contribute US $500,000 to Covax, stating it would like the latter to boost vaccine supplies and for countries and international organizations to continue supporting Vietnam regarding vaccine access and supply, especially as the domestic coronavirus situation grows ever more complex, according to VNE.

Vietnam offers to build Covid-19 vaccine factory for global supply
An employee for Nanogen operates a vaccine assembly chain for Nanocovax, a Vietnamese Covid-19 vaccine, in HCMC, December 8, 2020. (Photo: VNE)

The nationwide vaccine rollout started on May 8, prioritizing frontline workers like medical personnel, border and police force, Steering Committee for Covid-19 prevention and control members, and other important positions. Over a million shots have been given, around 28,800 recipients have been fully vaccinated. Authorities have reportedly been going all out to raise the number to 150 million doses, targeting to cover 75% of the population.

30 million via Vietnam Vaccine JSC’s contract and another 31 million from Pfizer-BioNTech are scheduled to reach Vietnam in 2021.

Las week, Long said the ministry was in talks with foreign groups and companies to secure more vaccines, including Pfizer-BioNTech and Sputnik V. It has also signed up a contract under the cost-sharing scheme with Covax to enjoy cheaper prices.

“Getting all citizens vaccinated is one of the basic and strategic policies in Vietnam’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Long was quoted as saying. “We should mobilize all resources available to help speed up vaccine access. People can only return to normal life when the virus is contained.”

Indigenous vaccines are also being developed, with human trials underway for Nanocovax by Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology JSC and Covivac by the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals.

Nanocovax is expected to begin the third phase of trials next week on 13,000 volunteers, and, if everything goes well, could enter production as early as September.

Over a month into its fourth wave, which is by far the most challenging Vietnam has encountered, the country has recorded 4,407 cases in 36 of its 63 cities and provinces.

Bac Giang is leading the case count with 2,329 infections, followed by Bac Ninh with 866, Hanoi with 412 (including 93 in a locked down hospital) and Ho Chi Minh City with 208.

Vietnam offers to build Covid-19 vaccine factory for global supply
A woman receives an injection as Vietnam starts its official rollout of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, in Hanoi, on March 8, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)

More about Covax mechanism

COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to this pandemic. Bringing together governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. The COVAX pillar is focussed on the latter. It is the only truly global solution to this pandemic because it is the only effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.

Coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO, COVAX will achieve this by acting as a platform that will support the research, development and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, and negotiate their pricing. All participating countries, regardless of income levels, will have equal access to these vaccines once they are developed. The initial aim is to have 2 billion doses available by the end of 2021, which should be enough to protect high risk and vulnerable people, as well as frontline healthcare workers, as reported by Gavi.

For lower-income funded nations, who would otherwise be unable to afford these vaccines, as well as a number of higher-income self-financing countries that have no bilateral deals with manufacturers, COVAX is quite literally a lifeline and the only viable way in which their citizens will get access to COVID-19 vaccines.

For the wealthiest self-financing countries, some of which may also be negotiating bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers, it serves as an invaluable insurance policy to protect their citizens, both directly and indirectly. On the one hand, it will provide direct protection by increasing their chances of securing vaccine doses.

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Jasmine Le