01.08.2020, 16:19

New COVID-19 strain won’t affect Vietnam’s vaccine study

Dr. Do Tuan Dat (Photo: VOV) 

Dr. Do Tuan Dat, Chairman of the Vaccine and Biological Products No. 1 Company (VABIOTECH ), said that nCoV in particular and viruses, in general, have always had variants, which exponentially increase the numbers of newly infected cases.2

“Previously, it took at least one to two weeks for the number of new cases to increase to 1 million, then there were 1 million new cases in just a week, and now, a country can see the number of infections reach the 1 million landmark in maybe only five days,” Dr. Dat was quoted by VOV as saying.

Experts have studied the modified virus, evaluating on 2 clinical characteristics and found that the mutations had yet to affect the gene region selected to develop into antigen in the vaccine against the novel nCoV.

“We only used the gene regions that generate immunity response and must be stable and less mutable. We did not use the entire virus for the research, thus the lastest variation of nCoV in Vietnam is not so much worrisome within the vaccine research realm”, Dr. Dat told VNE.

The gene S of the nCoV is currently chosen to develop into an antigen for COVID-19 vaccine as it’s genetically stable. Vietnam’s COVID-19 vaccine has been successfully tested on the first batch of 50 mice and will be developed into a complete, stable vaccine that is eligible for human testing.

The next problem Vietnamese scientists are looking to solve is how to study and produce the vaccine on the scale of several million to billions of doses to meet the large scale of the pandemic in months to come. Meanwhile, a conventional factory only has an annual production capacity of tens of millions of doses.

“This requires technologies, and the ability to meet production”, Dat commented.

The latest mutation of the novel coronavirus found in Da Nang late July won’t affect Vietnamese experts’ vaccine study (Photo: VNE) 

The urgent need to develop a vaccine to cope with the global pandemic remains a major story as in a very short time the world will require billions of doses, with even the leading manufacturers only able to produce hundreds of millions of doses over a few months, according to the VABIOTECH leader.

On July 22, the Ministry of Health said it would shorten the vaccine production process, including shortening the documentation and inspection time.

The ministry also allows to carry out multiple steps simultaneously, for example, the phase II of clinical trial will begin as soon as the results of the phase I come out while continuing to follow up after the phase I.

Vietnam is one of 42 countries to produce vaccines for the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), one of the 8 countries that has a vaccine management body that meets the World Health Organization (WHO) standard. In addition to Vabiotech, Vietnam also has three other units that study vaccines, including Polyvac, Ivac and Nanogen.

The world currently has 163 vaccine candidates for COVID-19. Among them, 23 candidates are in human-testing phase, 140 candidates are in the preclinical stage (including Vietnam’s vaccine). Three types of vaccines have shown good immune response testing with nCoV, which are the vaccine of China’s CanSino Biologics, the one co-studied by Oxford University and AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical Company, and Pfizer’s vaccine.

As of August 1, Vietnam has a total of 558 cases, of which 182 are active. The central city of Da Nang reported the first community transmission case in late July, after three months of no such infection nationwide. Since then, Vietnam continuously confirmed new batch of locally-infected patients, including those in big cities and provinces like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Quang Nam, central Highlands. July 31 marked the first COVID-19 death in the countries, following by another fatality on the same afternoon and one on August 1.