Vietnam begins Covid-19 vaccine trials on monkeys

By Chi Le   October 30, 2020 | 04:06 pm PT
Vietnam begins Covid-19 vaccine trials on monkeys
Covid-19 vaccine researchers at Vabiotech in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
A Vietnamese Covid-19 vaccine has been tested on monkeys since Tuesday, the Ministry of Health stated Friday.

The vaccine, made by the Hanoi-based Vaccine and Biological Production Company No. 1 (Vabiotech), has been tested on 12 rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) in northern Quang Ninh Province, Vu Cong Long, the animal farm head at the Center for Research and Production of Vaccines and Biologicals (Polyvac) under the health ministry, said Friday. Trials are expected to last around a month, he added.

The macaques are aged 3-5 and not infected with contagious diseases like tuberculosis or the HIV virus, said Long. Before being injected with the vaccine, they had their body temperatures, blood and swab samples taken and were kept separately in cages. Following administration, their health would be monitored during the next three months, before their blood samples are delivered to Hanoi for testing, he explained.

Do Tuan Dat, head of Vabiotech, said the test on macaques is a pre-clinical step in Covid-19 vaccine trials. The animals would be injected with the vaccine twice, each shot about 18-21 days apart, he noted. Experts would evaluate the macaques’ immune response about a month after the second administration, he said.

Besides tests on macaques, other tests on different animals by Vabiotech are ongoing to collect more data on the vaccine, said Dat.

Nguyen Thu Van, head of the executive board for the national program of vaccine product for human use, said Covid-19 vaccine trials on monkeys is just a step in the entire research for a Covid-19 vaccine. There are many kinds of animals available for trials, including mice and rabbits, and researchers get to decide which species they would like to test on, she added.

The result of these trials would be presented before the health ministry’s ethical board within the next four months if experiments show the vaccine does produce effective immunogenicity and provide effective protection against Covid-19, said Dat.

Currently, Vietnam has four research institutions working on Covid-19 vaccines: Vabiotech, Polyvac, the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (Ivac), and Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology.

Of the four, vaccines by Ivac and Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology are deemed most promising by the health ministry, and are expected to complete clinical trials in the final quarter of 2021. Right now, these vaccines are undergoing challenge trials, in which results should be available by December.

Based on challenge trial and other pre-clinical trial results, the health ministry would approve clinical trials within the month. The three stages of vaccine clinical research should be completed a year later.

Vietnam has recorded 1,177 Covid-19 cases so far, of which 77 are still active. A total 35 people have succumbed to the disease, many elderly patients with underlying conditions like diabetes or kidney failure.

The country has recorded no community transmission in nearly two months.

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