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Vietnam, UK working on fair, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine: diplomat

Sunday, August 16, 2020, 10:02 GMT+7
Vietnam, UK working on fair, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine: diplomat
Ambassador Gareth Ward speaks at a conference on COVID-19 vaccine development, testing, licensing, and distribution in Hanoi, Vietnam on July 22, 2020. Photo: British Embassy in Hanoi

Vietnam and the UK are shaking hands on COVID-19 vaccine production in order to ensure quick and fair distribution of the jab to all in need “regardless of income,” UK Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper this week.

In February, VABIOTECH under the Ministry of Health, the current leading agency in developing COVID-19 vaccines in Vietnam, conducted their initial research at the UK-based University of Bristol.

The company is now trialling its vaccine with a technology transferred from the university.

“Early results from animal trials indicate that the vaccine may offer protection against COVID-19,” Ambassador Ward told Tuoi Tre on Friday.

“Owing to these positive results, clinical trials on humans are anticipated to commence in early 2021.”

Besides, the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, which has offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, is conducting world-leading research on epidemiology, including those related to the pandemic.

The unit is also partnering with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health to carry out a clinical trial, supporting global efforts to identify effective and safe drugs to treat the acute respiratory disease.

“The UK is proud to partner with Vietnam on a portfolio of projects supporting COVID-19 recovery and infectious disease control,“ the UK diplomat said.

He, at the same time, urged  Vietnamese scientists who are interested in researching various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for a funding program currently open and hosted by the UK National Institute for Health Research.

The scope of the call is based on the WHO COVID-19 Global Research Roadmap priorities identified through a consultative process that involved experts from across the world.

The UK has committed over £6.5 billion (US$8.5 billion) in aid and financial support through the United Nations and other bodies to tackle the pandemic and support the world’s most vulnerable people.

The ambassador confirmed that his country would continue to make meaningful and long-lasting contributions to the Vietnamese society in terms of tackling non-communicable disease, harnessing the power of digital health, addressing the burden of antimicrobial resistance, as well as forging a bridge between leading UK and Vietnamese scientists through Prosperity Fund Better Health Program, Fleming Fund, Newton Fund, and Global Challenges Research Fund.

Preparing for vaccines

Besides technical collaboration, Vietnam and the UK join hands in accelerating regulatory reforms to prepare for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and ensure fair access to the jab.

Identifying significant policy challenges faced by Vietnam, the UK alongside WHO, US CDC, and NGO PATH supported the Ministry of Health to strengthen regulatory frameworks in order to advance vaccine research, licensing, and clinical trials while ensuring stringent safety and ethical standards.

“A challenge all countries face globally is ensuring that a COVID-19 vaccine can be quickly distributed equitably and accessibly, to everybody who needs it,” said Ambassador Ward.

“As the largest country donor to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the UK is proud to be working with Vietnam and other global partners to ensure that when a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, all countries will be granted fair and equitable access, regardless of income.”

He also expressed his high hope that the UK-Vietnam cooperation would become a role model in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We hope that the lessons we are all learning about public health, social cohesion, and what we can achieve when we cooperate, are remembered as we move toward a new normal,” he added.

Positive sign in vaccine development

Ambassador Ward said a COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, a leading UK biopharmaceutical company with over 25 years of presence in Vietnam, and the University of Oxford is currently undergoing late-stage Phase II/III trials in the UK and Brazil, a Phase I/II trial in South Africa, and trials planned in the U.S., Japan, and Russia.

The inoculation will soon be tested in the U.S., he added.

According to WHO, out of 26 COVID-19 vaccine candidates undergoing clinical trials, the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford shot is among the first six to enter phase-three trials globally.

The project is one of a few backed by £84 million ($110 million) in UK government funding.

“No one country or organization has the answer and global collaboration and partnership at a scale never seen before will be key to tackling this pandemic,” the ambassador said.

No country will be safe from COVID-19 until all countries are protected from the novel coronavirus, he added.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health on Friday announced that they had registered to buy vaccines from the UK and Russia in a bid to proactively respond to COVID-19.

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Khoa Thu / Tuoi Tre News

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