Overall safety of COVID-19 vaccines virtually assured

March 24, 2021 | 08:00
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Vietnam’s locally-made coronavirus vaccine entered a new development phase last week, bringing hopes for sufficient supply in the country later in the year. Dang Duc Anh, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, discussed with VIR’s Bich Thuy about vaccine safety amid recent suspension of batches in other nations.

COVIVAC – the second Vietnamese-made COVID-19 vaccine – entered clinical trials on March 15. How important is the vaccine to the country’s pandemic fight?

1536 p14 overall safety of covid 19 vaccines virtually assured
Dang Duc Anh, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology

Research and development of vaccines often takes a long time. The current situation asks us to develop and produce a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible while ensuring safety and efficacy.

During 2020, we witnessed the development of several vaccines with different technologies worldwide. The COVIVAC vaccine researched and produced by the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (IVAC) is a liquid vaccine with or without adjuvants, without preservatives, with the production technology of Newcastle’s vector vaccine, based on production technology on chicken eggs with embryos. Vietnam has mastered this technology in producing seasonal flu vaccines.

IVAC also has a factory meeting GMP-WHO standards which is able to produce COVIVAC vaccines at the moment. It is hoped that after the first clinical trials produce good results, we will have locally-made vaccines available for domestic use.

By late March, the first stage of vaccination using 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be finished. At that time, the country is expected to have new doses of vaccine from COVAX Facility arriving in.

Vietnam has reported some cases of people experiencing side effects after receiving their shots. Does the country have any plans to suspend the vaccination programme to investigate the reasons?

We continue with plans to vaccinate the entire population. All vaccines have certain side effects and the COVID-19 vaccine is not an exception. Normally, when there are serious side effects after vaccination, we carry out assessment and monitoring.

The Ministry of Health has asked cities and provinces which reported side effects after the shot to establish professional boards to look through the possible reasons, and they are now creating the process. As expected, localities will produce results soon. Up till now, Vietnam has reported no blood clots suffered after vaccination of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Globally, around 26 per cent of those vaccinated against COVID-19 experience normal side effects, and around 0.7 per cent face severe reactions. What is the rate in Vietnam?

There are varied COVID-19 vaccines globally and they have different rates of side effects and severe reactions. There is always a certain chance of experiencing side effects following the shot. That chance is within the expected level as determined by vaccine producers, the World Health Organization, and other relevant entities

In Vietnam, the rate of people with severe side effects is right now around 0.1 per cent, which is within the permissible rate.

While vaccinating, the country continues to monitor and assess the safety and efficacy, while keeping close eyes on reports about the safety of the vaccine from countries which also use the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Many countries now have some concerns over possible new waves of the pandemic in recent weeks. Do you foresee any similar signs in Vietnam?

Each country has their own policies and strategies to prevent and fight against the pandemic. Those of the European Union are different from Vietnam’s, and in the United States, the way of prevention and fighting the spread is also not comparable to this country.

In a bid to control the pandemic, Vietnam is taking bold and strict actions, and this is paying off with the country reporting no, or even very low, community-infected rates.

By Bich Thuy

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