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"A vaccine manufacturer in Vietnam has already expressed its interest to become a mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine technology transfer hub," Kidong Park, the WHO representative in Vietnam, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
The proposal was being reviewed by the WHO, said Park, who added that the organisation expects Vietnam to also apply for "large scale manufacturing" of an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.
Park did not say which vaccine manufacturer had expressed interest in the plans.
Earlier on May 11, VNA reported that Vietnam is seeking the transfer of mRNA technology to domestically manufacture COVID-19 vaccines as officials warned of supply issues until the end of the year.
"Given the currently limited supply to Vietnam, especially as the COVID-19 situation is showing complicated developments, the health ministry has met with a World Health Organization representative to facilitate the negotiations on transferring of mRNA technology," as reported by VNA.
Governments are looking to build up local vaccine production after manufacturing setbacks slowed rollouts in some countries.
Vaccine makers have come under growing pressure to free up their patents to aid poor countries. BioNTech and other COVID-19 vaccine makers have said they were already transferring vital production knowledge to other parts of the world.
The WHO in April said it was seeking to expand the capacity of low and middle-income countries to produce and scale up the manufacturing of vaccines to help bring the pandemic under control.
"If Vietnam will host a mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine technology transfer hub, it will contribute to mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine production in Vietnam as well as in the region," Park told Reuters.
MRNA vaccines, like that developed jointly by BionTech and Pfizer, prompt the human body to make a protein that is part of the virus, triggering an immune response.
|Health workers wait for their turn as Vietnam starts its official rollout of AstraZeneca's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine for health workers, at Hai Duong Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Hai Duong province, Vietnam, March 8, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)|
Vietnam has been praised for its record in containing COVID-19 outbreaks quickly through targeted mass testing and a strict, centralised quarantine programme.
But a new outbreak emerged late last month and has already reached 25 of its 63 provinces, with a daily record 129 cases reported on Monday, although infections are still relatively low at 501 in the past two weeks.
Vietnam said last week it aims to administer all of its 928,800 AstraZeneca doses, most of which came via the global COVAX scheme, by May 15.
"The health ministry is trying to obtain more vaccines, and we expect to receive more by the end of 2021, but it won't be enough for community immunity," Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said in a statement on Tuesday. "At least from now until the end of 2021, Vietnam will have to take anti-COVID-19 measures as if it hasn't received any vaccines."
Vietnam is expecting nearly 1.7 million AstraZeneca doses, supplied by COVAX Facility via the UN Children’s Fund, this Sunday. The move will speed up vaccine rollout and increase coverage nationwide.
“We are continuing to accelerate the search, access and negotiation for vaccine sources in a bid to make sure there is enough vaccine availability and safety for all residents,” Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said.
Nationwide vaccine rollout started on March 8. So far, the UK’s AstraZeneca vaccine is the only coronavirus vaccine injected in Vietnam. In late February, the health ministry purchased over 117,000 doses via Vietnam Vaccine JSC. Over 800,000 doses supplied by COVAX Facility arrived in March. All the doses have been administered to prioritized individuals in 62 provinces and cities, including frontline medical personnel, Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control members, police and military forces.
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The Health Ministry prepares to receive mRNA technology transfer.