Global tie-ups speed up vaccine use

June 30, 2021 | 14:18
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Vietnam’s target of increasing COVID-19 vaccine coverage could be reached soon as more private groups are joining the government’s efforts, with an ambition to venture further into the global vaccine supply chain.
Global tie-ups speed up vaccine use
Vietnam is in need of an accelerated vaccine campaign in the midst of its most difficult wave yet

According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Health (MoH), state-owned Vaccine and Biological Production No.1 Company (Vabiotech) on June 12 signed an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) on bottling and packaging the Sputnik V vaccine in Vietnam starting from July with an output of five million doses a month, with a vision towards transferring the technology for production of 100 million doses a year.

State-owned Vabiotech, one of the leading companies in the research, manufacturing, and trade of vaccines and biological products in Vietnam, is also negotiating with Japanese partners on the transfer of COVID-19 vaccine production technology.

Other Vietnamese groups like Vingroup are also wanting to pioneer on this path. The conglomerate has discussed with a US manufacturer the conditions for COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer. Currently, the vaccine has completed its second trial stage.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA technology, aims to instruct cells to produce a protein that generates an immune response in the body, thus producing the antibodies that provide protection against a disease.

Vabiotech’s factory invested in alignment with technology standards, and is expected to start production in the fourth quarter of 2021 or January 2022, with an annual capacity of 100-200 million doses.

The United Nations announced on June 21 that the World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting a South African consortium in establishing the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub. The facility will allow manufacturers from developing countries access to vaccine technology and provide them the relevant licences to do so. This is part of the global efforts to scale-up access to lifesaving treatments.

According to Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long, many Vietnamese corporations are seeking to join the global vaccine supply chain, and the country is working with international partners on the transfer of COVID-19 vaccine technology to Vietnamese units.

In early June, the MoH worked with Johnson & Johnson representatives on similar moves. Minister Long asserted that Vietnam is one of the 40 countries worldwide most capable of vaccine production to serve the local demand.

The country’s National Regulatory Authority has reached the WHO’s Maturity Level 3, the second-highest in the WHO classification of national regulatory systems. Therefore, Vietnam now hopes that Johnson & Johnson will transfer its vaccine technology for Vietnam.

In mid-June, Minister Long also proposed Cuba to transfer the technology of the Abdala vaccine to Vietnam at a virtual meeting with his Cuban counterpart and BioCubaFarma.

Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son on June 22 proposed to the United Kingdom to consider technology transfer for COVID-19 vaccines production. The move is in line with the government’s orientation, which attaches importance to the national vaccine strategy.

The national vaccine strategy includes diversified sources for supply and aims to speed up negotiations to buy vaccines, as well as accelerate technology transfer and efficient and safe vaccinations.

With the strategy, Vietnam hopes that both state and private groups will enable the country to work towards vaccinating around 70 million of the population, thus reaching herd immunity to prepare for the reopening of the market. This is also an opportunity for Vietnamese players to venture further into the global vaccine supply.

According to the WHO, while a handful of countries have high vaccination rates, and are now seeing lower numbers of hospitalisations and casualties, other countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia are now facing a resurgence of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh last week made a working visit to Vabiotech and other vaccine producers, urging them to fast-track technology transfer of vaccines to facilitate the nation-wide vaccination strategy. “We have to pay more attention to the research and production of vaccines as soon as possible. By June 2022, we must have COVID-19 vaccines produced at home,” he said.

To realise the goal, the PM has assigned the MoH and other relevant ministries and agencies to build a scheme on technology transfer, research, and production of vaccines to submit to the government for approval. He also agreed to spend part of state budget as a funding in public-private partnerships to accelerate the work.

By Bich Thuy

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