Prof. Do Quyet, director of the Vietnam Military Medical Academy, outlined the information as part of a brief announcement during the launch of the second phase of human clinical trials on Nano Covax which took place on February 26 in Hanoi.
“Preliminary research results show that the potent antibodies elicited by Nano Covax prove to be effective against the variant B.1.1.7 from the UK,” said Prof. Quyet.
The country kick-started the initial phase of human trials of Nano Covax last December, marking the first vaccine of its kind to be produced locally by Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology JSC, one of the four COVID-19 vaccine producers currently operating in the country.
It is now in the process of launching the second phase of trials in both Hanoi and the southern province of Long An with the participation of approximately 560 volunteers aged between 12 and 75.
The second phase is set to be focused on the safety and efficiency of the vaccine, especially the generation of antibodies, as the vaccine will also be tested on elderly people suffering from underlying health issues, according to Prof. Quyet.
“In phase 2 we will continue to evaluate whether these antibodies can resist the variant from South Africa,” he said.
Vietnamese scientists have conducted genome sequencing and found there are five variant strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus since the initial COVID-19 outbreak erupted in January 2020.
Most notably, variants VOC202012/01 and B.1.1.7 which originate from the UK and A.23.1 from South Africa have recently been detected at COVID-19 hotspots in Hai Duong province and Ho Chi Minh City, respectively.
While locally-made vaccines are currently in the process of undergoing clinical trials, the country is striving to ramp up the import of COVID-19 vaccines as part of the national vaccination campaign.
The initial batch of AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on February 24, with more than 117,000 doses landing in the country.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) is due to ramp up the inoculation programme in early March, with priority set to be given to frontline healthcare workers, soldiers, border guards, policemen, along with those on duty in isolation areas and quarantine facilities.
Vietnam requires at least 150 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the national vaccination programme this year. However, Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long believes the country is likely to receive only 90 million doses in 2021.
Along with the import of 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine agreed with AstraZeneca and COVAX, the nation is also negotiating to import a further 30 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine of the United States.
The MoH is therefore considering licensing two additional COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna of the United States and Generium of Russia.