Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Vietnam says it will buy AstraZeneca vaccine while still developing own jab

Hanoi is planning to roll out a 'made in Vietnam' vaccine later this year.

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Vietnam has agreed to buy 30 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, the government said on Monday, adding that authorities are also seeking to purchase vaccines from other sources.

Hanoi previously agreed to buy a Russian vaccine though it also said it would not rush to secure vaccine deals, citing the potential for high financial costs and after successfully managing to contain its coronavirus outbreaks to below 1,500 cases, with 35 deaths.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper than some others and can be stored at domestic fridge temperature, which makes it easier to transport and use, particularly in developing countries.

“We’ve already signed an agreement to guarantee the AstraZeneca vaccine for 15 million people, which is equivalent to 30 million doses,” Deputy Health Minister Truong Quoc Cuong told a government meeting, reported by Reuters.

Vietnam is also in talks to purchase vaccines from America’s Pfizer, Russia’s Sputnik V and China, the deputy minister said, without naming the Chinese vaccine candidate.

Hanoi in August said it had signed up for 50 million-150 million doses of the Russian vaccine, though delivery remains unclear.

Cuong also said Vietnam would be eligible to buy vaccines from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Covax programme to cover 16%, or 15.6 million of its almost 100 million population, but said more information would be available soon.

The Hanoi government has yet to give formal regulatory approval to any international vaccine and is also developing vaccines domestically.

The country is one of 42 countries worldwide that can produce vaccines and among 38 with vaccine management agencies that follow WHO standards. Vietnam has a track record of producing diphtheria vaccines.

Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology are proceeding with clinical trials of a Covid-19 vaccine, giving a shot in the arm to the Ho Chi Minh City-based company’s efforts to roll out a “made in Vietnam” vaccine this year.

The country has conducted human trials of its “Nano Covax” vaccine and a second home-grown vaccine is expected to start undergoing human trials this month.

Hanoi is prioritising domestic production of a vaccine as a way to ensure it has enough inoculations for its whole population, saying manufacturing for export is a secondary motive.

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