Vietnam's first coronavirus vaccine volunteer: 'I have faith'

By Chi Le   December 10, 2020 | 01:42 pm GMT+7
Minh Anh took a deep breath before signing up as Vietnam's first human subject to trial a domestic Covid-19 vaccine.
Minh Anh, 25, arrives at Vietnam Military Medical University in Hanoi to sign up for the human trial of a Vietnamese Covid-19 vaccine, December 10, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le.

Minh Anh, 25, arrives at Vietnam Military Medical University in Hanoi to sign up for the human trial of a Vietnamese Covid-19 vaccine, December 10, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le.

Reporting to Vietnam Military Medical University (VMMU) in Hanoi early Thursday morning, Anh, 25, agreed to become the country's first human subject for Nanocovax, a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology JSC.

First phase human trials would require 60 volunteers, of whom 30 had signed up as of Thursday morning at VMMU, through the phone, by email or via Nanogen's official website.

Medical student Anh had researched Covid-19 previously, bearing full knowledge of how severe and dangerous the disease could be.

"In Vietnam, Covid-19 prevention efforts are very good, with no fatalities directly caused by the virus. But it has spread globally and killed so many people," she commented.

Vietnam has recorded 1,381 Covid-19 cases so far, 118 still active. Thirty-five have succumbed to the disease, many being elderly patients with underlying conditions like diabetes or kidney failure.

Apart from seeking immunity, Anh wants to understand the novel coronavirus better by undergoing the vaccine trial.

"Saying that I'm not worried or scared wouldn't be true. But I have faith. Even if there are side effects, I would be taken care of as a priority. If the trial goes south, I can stop anytime I want," she said, adding she has been informed of what exactly would be injected into her body and would receive regular checkups following administration.

"Nothing bad's going to happen."

Minh Anh fills in forms to sign up as a Covid-19 vaccine human subject in Hanoi, December 10, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le.

Minh Anh signs up as a Covid-19 vaccine volunteer in Hanoi, December 10, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Chi Le.

Nguyen Ngo Quang, deputy director of the Administration of Science, Technology and Training under the Ministry of Health, said Covid-19 vaccine volunteers have to be aged 18-50, healthy, and financially stable, among other criteria.

Selected volunteers will receive vaccine shots from December 17.

Do Minh Sy, Nanogen’s director for research and development, said all risks and variables have been calculated, with medical staff from 103 Military Hospital and the Vietnam National Institute of Burns on standby.

Nanogen has contracted an insurance company to cover volunteers, with certain banks agreeing to compensate those who fail to obtain coverage, he added.

Ho Nhan, director of Nanogen, said the insurance package is worth VND20 billion ($863,290). He did not specify the amount of compensation volunteers would receive in case something happens.

All three clinical trial phases are expected to complete by the fourth quarter of 2021.

Vietnam currently has four Covid-19 vaccines under development by Nanogen, the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (IVAC), Vaccine and Biological Production Company No. 1 (Vabiotech) and the Center for Research and Production of Vaccines and Biologicals (Polyvac).

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by IVAC is expected to enter human trials starting March next year if approved by authorities, said Duong Huu Thai, company director. Vabiotech said it would seek approval for human trials in early 2021, according to Do Tuan Dat, its president.

Globally, 11 vaccines have entered phase three clinical trials. Before a vaccine can enter clinical trials, it needs to go through pre-clinical development stages like laboratory research and tests on cells, tissue cultures, and animal subjects.

*The volunteer’s name has been changed for anonymity.

 
 
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