The Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (IVAC) has completed the clinical trials of two types of seasonal influenza vaccine, which are expected to receive approval for commercial use in 2019, said Dr Le Van Be, head of the institute.
The vaccine targets three strains of influenza: A/H1N1, A/H3N2 and B/H3N2, along with A/H5N1 (avian influenza or bird flu).
The results were recorded after nine years of international cooperation with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and the IVAC to improve the country’s vaccine production and pandemic influenza response.
Since 2010, PATH (known as Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health) – an international, non-profit global health organisation – has worked with the MoH to devise a long-term plan on influenza vaccine production and consumption, as well as guidance on clinical trials and vaccine registration.
Over the 2017-2018 period, the second phases of the vaccine trials for seasonal influenza and A/H5N1 were completed, paving the way for the vaccines to be licensed for commercial use.
Notably, the price of the vaccines will be only one third of imported ones, standing at 80,000-120,000 VND (3.5-5 USD) per dose.
According to IVAC, at a seminar on seasonal influenza vaccine production in Vietnam which took place in late August, Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long announced that locally produced seasonal influenza vaccines had received their first order from the World Health Organisation (WHO), making Vietnam among the 14 countries supplying the preventative treatment.
Influenza is a leading cause of low morbidity and mortality worldwide. Seasonal influenza causes some 250,000-500,000 fatalities and up to five million cases of severe illness across the globe every year.
If a highly virulent pandemic strain emerged, influenza could cause millions of fatalities around the world.
Vietnam reports more than a million cases of influenza-like illnesses every year and has reported isolated cases of avian influenza A/H5N1 in humans, a strain with a particularly high fatality rate.
The strain is being monitored for any evolution or adaptation that could turn it into an easily-spread form, bolstering against the likelihood of a pandemic.
The IVAC, established in 1978 by the MoH, plans and carries out the production of vaccines and serums for the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in Vietnam and the overall prevention and treatment of diseases. It also conducts research and applies technological advances in vaccine development and production in cooperation with organisations both inside and outside the country.