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Vaccine ready for next year

13 Jul 2020

A novel coronavirus vaccine being produced by a Thai research team in conjunction with Pennsylvania University — is scheduled to reach commercial production by the end of next year's third quarter, the development team said on Sunday.

The researchers said non-human primates getting a second dose of the vaccine displayed elevated rates of Covid-19 antibodies, which the study team considered a positive indication in light of the ongoing human trials planned for October.

The study team — headed by Chula Vaccine Research Centre's Kiat Ruxrungtham — made the argument at a press conference charting success in their work. The researchers evaluated Cu-Cov19, an mRNA vaccine, on 13 macaques at the National Primate Research Center at Chulalongkorn University, Saraburi.

The outcome has given rise to strong expectations that by the third quarter of next year, the nation will effectively develop its own vaccine against Covid-19.

BioNet Asia, a collaborator of the centre, is scheduled to deliver "millions" of doses by the end of next year, Dr Kiat said.

Chutitorn Ketloy, a member of the research team, said macaques that were vaccinated during May and June seem to have gained tolerance to Covid-19, with their antibody rates exceeding 5,120 after the second dose.

"This is a significant result, as we now understand that when the vaccine is administered to humans, the antibody response will drop by 5-10 times," Dr Kiat said.

"Yet even with such a decline, tolerance to the disease can be maintained as long as the antibody response measures beyond 1,000, which is the amount that we want to see in the [human] study."

The first phase of clinical trials, he claims, will launch in October, preceded by the second phase from December to March 2021. Since the third step of clinical trials needs more than 10,000 patients to confirm the findings, Thailand — due to its comparatively low number of events

"When the United States Food and Drugs Administration ( FDA) recommends any mRNA vaccine for Covid-19 before ours, though, the third step may be skipped entirely," Dr Kiat said.

He said the US FDA may exercise its Emergency Use Authorisation provision to manufacture vaccines in Thailand under Thailand's FDA supervision and oversight.

When a vaccine is authorized by the US FDA before Thailand, Thai plants are able to mass-produce the vaccines by the third quarter of next year, he added.

For order to adequately contain an epidemic, at least half the citizens of an individual nation would need to be vaccinated, suggesting Thailand would require at least 70 million doses.

If local plants can not pump out enough vaccines to satisfy demand, the government would request support from Indonesia to help co-produce the vaccine, Dr Kiat said.

About two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine are expected to be manufactured by the end of next year — which is unlikely to be enough to satisfy market demand.

"In 2009, owing to the short manufacturing run of the medication, Thailand refused to procure the swine flu vaccine in time, even though it was paid for in advance. The vaccine arrived after the outbreak was over," Dr Kiat said.