Asian Insider

The race for home-grown Covid-19 vaccines

The race to develop home-grown Covid-19 vaccines is on, spurred by supply shortages worldwide. The Straits Times sizes up some of Asia's leading vaccine candidates that are undergoing clinical trials.

Quest for Covid-19 vaccines made in Asia

Faced with a surging Covid-19 outbreak fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant, Vietnam called for public donations in June to accelerate its vaccination drive.

It amassed over 8.6 trillion dong (S$512 million), including donations from global conglomerates Samsung and Toyota, which were eager to avoid manufacturing disruptions.

Then, last Saturday (Aug 14), Hanoi announced it would allocate 8.8 billion dong of these donations to clinical trials of Covivac, a vaccine candidate created by the health ministry's Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals. Vietnam's other leading home-grown vaccine candidate, Nanocovax, is now being put through third-phase clinical trials.


Thai developers hoping local Covid-19 jabs can be used as boosters

Since April, Thailand has been caught in a spiralling wave of Covid-19 infections, largely fuelled by a more transmissible Delta variant that threatens to overwhelm its healthcare system.

As caseloads log about 20,000 new infections daily, the country has been scrambling to secure more Covid-19 vaccine shots.

Thailand's inoculation drive currently relies on shots by foreign vaccine developers - Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Pfizer.


Work being done in Vietnam on 2 Covid-19 vaccines amid tech transfer deals

Vietnam initially had four Covid-19 vaccine candidates as it tried to capitalise on its head start from successfully containing earlier waves of the outbreak.

At this point, two candidates are in the clear lead: Nanocovax, developed by Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in collaboration with Vietnam Military Medical University, and Covivac, developed by the health ministry's Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals.

Human trials have started on these vaccine candidates alongside preparatory work undertaken by Vietnam to manufacture vaccines from Russia, the United States and Japan under technology transfer deals.


Taiwan's first local Covid-19 vaccine to be available from Monday

After over a year of trial and error, Taiwan's first locally developed Covid-19 vaccine will finally be available to the public from Monday (Aug 23).

Some 600,000 doses of Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp's vaccine will be ready for administration, said the island's Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC).

The manufacturer had received emergency use authorisation from the Food and Drug Administration last month, a development which was questioned by many Taiwanese as Medigen had not launched phase three clinical trials.


South Korea aims to be among top 5 global vaccine producers by 2025

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has pledged to provide all available support to develop home-grown vaccines for Covid-19, even throwing in a 2.2 trillion won (S$2.6 billion) investment package to help local drugmakers.

"We will strive to take a leap forward to become one of the top five global vaccine producers by 2025," he said this month, adding that vaccines will also become one of South Korea's three national strategic technologies, alongside semiconductors and batteries.

Experts say South Korea, which boasts one of the world's largest production capabilities for biopharmaceutical products and exported US$5.1 billion (S$7 billion) worth of such goods last year, is well placed to become a major force in the global vaccine industry.


Four in running for Covid-19 vaccines in Japan, but regulations causing lags

Four drugmakers are conducting human clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines in Japan, though approvals remain months away.

Despite its global reputation as a leader in pharmaceutical drugs, Japan lags in vaccine development due to its own chequered history.

A 1992 court decision that said the government was liable to pay damages to those who suffer adverse side effects led Tokyo to tighten regulatory approval to the point where it became untenable for firms to invest in research.


Promising pipeline of Covid-19 vaccines in India, but affordability is key

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a shot of the country's first indigenous Covid-19 vaccine on March 1, he said: "Remarkable how our doctors and scientists have worked in quick time to strengthen the global fight against Covid-19."

Three months earlier, Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech International using the whole inactivated coronavirus, had received emergency approval from India's drug regulator - even before the key third phase of its human clinical trial proved the extent of its efficacy against the coronavirus.


Covid-19 vaccine by Arcturus and Singapore's Duke-NUS in phase 2 trials

Three different Covid-19 messenger RNA vaccines which may have reduced side effects when administered are being developed with Singapore's involvement in their clinical trials.

Developed by United States-firm Arcturus Therapeutics, the three vaccine candidates can be given at a much lower dose than the mRNA vaccines now available - such as those by Pfizer and Moderna - because of the "self-amplifying" mRNA technology they use.

Each dose of the Arcturus vaccine contains five micrograms of vaccine, compared to 30 mcg in the Pfizer vaccine and 100 mcg in the Moderna vaccine.


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