06:00 | 25/02/2022 Science - Technology
GENEVA — Vietnam is among five countries newly selected to receive mRNA vaccine technology transfer from a global biomanufacturing training hub established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in South Africa.
Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Serbia will receive support from the hub in South Africa, the WHO said in a press conference late Wednesday.
“Those countries were vetted by a group of experts and proved that they could absorb the technology and, with targeted training, move to production relatively quickly,” according to the WHO.
During the event, the WHO also announced the establishment of a similar hub in the Republic of Korea. These hubs will serve all low- and middle-income countries wishing to produce biologicals, such as vaccines, insulin, monoclonal antibodies and cancer treatments.
Vials of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine — Photo from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO)
“One of the key barriers to successful technology transfer in low- and middle-income countries is the lack of a skilled workforce and weak regulatory systems,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Building those skills will ensure that they can manufacture the health products they need at a good quality standard so that they no longer have to wait at the end of the queue.”
”Although Vietnam is a developing country, we have had a lot of experience in vaccine development over the past decades,” said Vietnamese Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long during the virtual address.
”The WHO has also recognised our National Regulatory Authority. We believe that in participating in this initiative, Vietnam will be able to produce the mRNA vaccine on a large scale, not only for domestic consumption but also for other countries in the region and the world, contributing to reducing inequalities in access to vaccines,” Long said.
He said he was glad the WHO had selected Vietnam as one of the vaccine manufacturers, and the Government and the Ministry of Health of Vietnam were committed to providing the “maximum facilitation” for Vietnamese vaccine producers to receive the transferred production technology.
The mRNA vaccine is an advanced technology that allows fast modification and updates in response to new variants of the virus and production in large quantities. It is meaningful in the context of the pandemic and helps to respond to other pandemics that might arise in the future, Long noted.
With the capacity and enthusiasm of manufacturers as well as the determination of the Government, Vietnam hopes to continue receiving the support of WHO and partners to be able to master and update mRNA vaccine technology in the future. This will help enhance vaccine production capacity in the region, contributing to efforts to ensure national and regional health security, said the Vietnamese health official.
Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs from Indonesia, said that Indonesia was one of the countries that continuously supports vaccine equity and equal access to COVID vaccines for all countries, including through the transfer of vaccine technology and know-how to developing countries.
“This transfer of technology will contribute to equal access to health countermeasures, which will help us to recover together and recover stronger. This is the kind of solution that developing countries need. A solution that empowers and strengthens our self-reliance, as well as a solution that allows us to contribute to global health resilience,” she said.
Many countries have responded to the call from the WHO for expressions of interest from the technology transfer hub in late 2021.
The WHO said it would provide support to all respondents but was prioritising countries that did not have mRNA technology but already had some biomanufacturing capacity.
The WHO previously announced six African countries – Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia – and two Latin American nations – Argentina and Brazil – as the first on their continents to receive mRNA technology from the global hub.
The global organisation will enter into discussions with other interested countries, and other mRNA technology recipients will be announced in the coming months.
Training is expected for the selected countries from March.