Ho Chi Minh City authorities have proposed that the Hospital for Tropical Diseases be allowed to culture the novel coronavirus to better assess herd immunity.
During a working session on Tuesday, Dr. Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, deputy director of the municipal Department of Health, asked the Ministry of Health to allow the Ho Chi Minh City Hospital for Tropical Diseases to culture the SARS-CoV-2 in the laboratory.
The clinical research unit of the University of Oxford, which has been participating in the genome sequencing process at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, has a biosafety level-three laboratory.
This facility meets international biosafety standards and has its safety inspected by the General Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health.
The lab has been used to culture viruses such as multi-resistant tuberculosis and influenza.
If allowed to culture the coronavirus, the southern city will be able to better assess herd immunity, according to Dr. Chau.
The evaluation of herd immunity in the city was previously based on antibody concentration and the use of some techniques to replace neutralization reaction, the official elaborated.
However, the neutralization reaction is the most accurate method to evaluate protective antibodies.
To conduct a neutralization reaction, a live virus must be mixed with the serum, Chau stated.
At the meeting, a representative from the Ministry of Health stated that the number of COVID-19 cases in Ho Chi Minh City has been decreasing drastically.
However, the city must not let its guard down as new coronavirus variants could have entered the local community during the recent Lunar New Year holiday, posing a high risk for the elderly and unvaccinated people.
Municipal authorities should have recommendations on pandemic prevention at local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, pagodas, and festival places to minimize the spread of the virus in case a new variant is recorded.