Vietnam has started the final stage phase III trials of its domestically developed coronavirus vaccine candidate that the country expects to roll out for mass use by the end of the year, according to a NikkeiAsia report from Hanoi. Nanocovax, developed by startup Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in collaboration with Vietnam Military Medical University, started the final trials on Thursday, the company said. About 13,000 people will participate in the trials, and the results will be compiled by September, Nanogen said. The development of the vaccine comes as a major breakthrough, as Vietnam will not have to be dependent on China for Covid vaccines amid the acute shortage of doses worldwide. Vietnam has fought a bloody war with China in the past and is constantly facing problems over its ownership of the Spratly Islands, its maritime limits and offshore oil and gas assets with its aggressive neighbour. The sudden surge in coronavirus cases in India led to restrictions in the export of Indian vaccines in March this year which came as a major setback for countries like Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Vietnam's ambassador to India, Pham Sanh Chau had opted for Bharat Biotech's Covaxin dose at Delhi's Dr Ram Manohar Lohia hospital and paid tributes to India's achievement on the vaccine front at the time. China had made a big push for its vaccines in the south-east Asian region as part of its gunboat diplomacy, but the countries were wary on the offer because transparent data was not available on the doses being provided. The vaccine offer was also seen as a part of China's coercive foreign policy with an eye on the adjoining territories and exclusive economic sea zones of its neighbours. Countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia had rejected China's offer and finalised deals for procuring COVID-19 vaccines from US pharma giant Pfizer and Britain's AstraZeneca which also has a collaboration with Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The first phase of the Nanocovax trials started in December. Everyone injected with the candidate during the second-phase trials produced antibodies, and the vaccine so far has been found to be safe, the report said. Vietnam has been more successful than its neighbours in containing the spread of the coronavirus. With a population of 100 million people, the country has a total caseload of around 10,000. But the number of infections has shot up in recent weeks, raising the possibility that the government will allow Nanocovax to be administered on an emergency basis. Nanogen is preparing to mass-produce Nanocovax. The company has capacity to produce roughly 100 million doses a year at facilities in Ho Chi Minh City, the NikkeiAsia report said. However, due to the acute shortage Vietnam had, on June 4, authorised emergency use of the vaccine made by China's Sinopharm. But it still remains to be seen whether Vietnam will go in for the import of the doses.