Made-in-Vietnam Vaccine Gets Greenlight for Final Trial

Success threatened by variant surges, sluggish vaccine rollout . . .

Vietnam remains a COVID-19 success story, with only 4,809 cases and 39 deaths as of May 20, thanks to effective measures including border control, well-timed lockdowns, and extensive contact tracing efforts. But the country remains vulnerable to variant outbreaks that have devastated Cambodia and India as it struggles with vaccine procurement and distribution. Vietnam is the only ASEAN member yet to accept the Chinese-made Sinovac jab. Some observers say it is the result of a long history of territorial disputes that have contributed to anti-China sentiments. With less than one per cent of the population currently inoculated, Vietnam is pushing for the development of four homegrown vaccine candidates, one of which is proceeding toward the final stage of clinical trials.

Made-in-Vietnam vaccine . . .

Nanocovax, developed by Saigon-based Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology JSC, is the first of the four Vietnamese vaccines to have completed phase 2 human trials. The trial recruited 560 volunteers, including Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, with participants injected with two doses at various concentrations. All participants developed sufficient immunity, and none experienced serious side effects. Phase 3 of the trial that evaluates a vaccine’s protective ability against COVID-19 is expected to begin this month, with a plan to involve 10,000 to 15,000 participants in Vietnam and other countries such as the Philippines and Bangladesh.

New player on the vaccine market?

The Vietnam government has promised to bolster Nanogen’s production capacity if the trial delivers favourable results, targeting an estimated 120 million vaccine doses per year. Meanwhile, Vietnam has approved several COVID-19 vaccines currently being used internationally and primarily relies on the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab to drive its immunization campaign. Vietnam has also requested the transfer of mRNA vaccine technology from the World Health Organization, with hopes of countering supply limitations and scaling up domestic manufacturing. Vietnam continues to seek international assistance in expanding vaccine accessibility, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Canada’s support in a phone call with his Vietnamese counterpart earlier this week.