18 March 2021
Full Report: Vietnam
- Development of domestic vaccines will boost pharmaceutical industry, but broader rollout will face delays in coming months
- Slow global vaccine exports and low available doses mean mass vaccination unlikely to start until late 2021 or early 2022
- Potential for new outbreaks will sustain risk of reintroduction of local restrictions and ensure international travel remains strictly controlled in coming year
The first phase of clinical trials for Hanoi’s second coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine Covivac began on 15 March and is expected to last until 20 April. This follows the start of the second phase of clinical trials for its first domestic vaccine, Nanocovax, last month. Meanwhile, the government launched its vaccine rollout on 8 March using the first 177,600 doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine received last month through the WHO-led COVAX scheme. The vaccine rollout is initially prioritising frontline medical workers, military, and police forces.
Vietnam has four domestic COVID-19 vaccines under development, and the government aims to put its first – Nanocovax – into use by late 2021 or early 2022. After an outbreak of infections linked to the more transmissible UK variant in the northern province of Hai Duong at the end of January, Hanoi has brought domestic spread of the virus under control, with total infections of 2,567 and only 35 deaths to date. The government is now pursuing its vaccine rollout, having approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use on 28 January, with plans to acquire 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by 2022 from a range of foreign and domestic sources.
Vietnam: Development of domestic vaccines will boost pharmaceutical industry. Source: Vietnam’s Ministry of Health.
Vietnam is the most advanced among Southeast Asian countries in developing domestic vaccines, which highlights the government’s desire to avoid overreliance on one supplier, particularly given the current constraints on global delivery of those vaccines that are already available. Indeed, Vietnam is currently due to receive 30 million AstraZeneca doses in 2021 – both directly and via the COVAX scheme – which will only cover 20% of its population, far from the 70% needed to achieve herd immunity. Hanoi is therefore also negotiating with US firms Pfizer and Moderna for their vaccines, along with other manufacturers in Russia. However, Vietnam is the only country within the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to not use Chinese vaccines, likely due to broader bilateral tensions over issues such as the South China Sea and technology. Indeed, Vietnam is also unusual in the region for excluding China’s Huawei from its 5G networks last year.
The government’s focus on domestic vaccine production means it will invest heavily in the pharmaceutical industry in the coming year, which will create opportunities for firms involved or looking to expand in this sector. However, since domestic vaccines likely won’t be available until next year, Hanoi will in the meantime rely on procurement from abroad. Slow exports and low numbers of available doses will likely delay the vaccination drive, as well as potential concerns over side effects – as has been the case with AstraZeneca in Europe, Thailand and Indonesia. Achieving herd immunity will therefore be slow, with priority groups receiving vaccinations in the coming months but mass vaccination for the general public not likely to start until later this year. This will sustain the risk of local restrictions being reintroduced at short notice, and international travel will remain strictly controlled, placing strain in particular on the tourism industry, but causing some disruption for businesses in all sectors in the coming year.
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