Volunteers contribute to Vietnamese COVID-19 vaccine

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Health workers give counselling to a volunteer registered to join the trial of Nano Covax vaccine at the Military Medical Academy. VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết

HÀ NỘI — As researchers race to develop vaccines to combat the spread of COVID-19, many people from all walks of life want to get involved in the fight by volunteering to join clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines.

T.T.N, a teacher at Giáp Bát Secondary School in Hà Nội is one such volunteer.

N was one of the first three people to be injected with the Nano Covax vaccine.

“I am really happy because I have the opportunity to offer my body for medical research and for my country, especially when the pandemic spreads around the world.

“It is an honour for me to be able to pass the screening and be one of the first three volunteers,” she told Lao động (Labour) online newspaper.

“If there was no help from the people, the ‘made in Viet Nam’ vaccine would never come true,” N explained why she got involved.

N said when she talked to her close friends about volunteering they tried to talk her out of it as they worried about her health.

She told her friends that she had a strong belief in Vietnamese medicine.

“After the injection, I did not experience any side effects, but I always joke to everyone that the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine is to make me get hungry fast, eat more and be healthier,” N said.

As she is in charge of the volunteer groups, she has mobilised 52 others to register for the second phase of the trial.

N said she didn’t have much convincing to do as her good health was testimony enough.

N.T.N.H, a volunteer from Hà Nội, expressed her hope for the success of the homegrown COVID-19 vaccine so that everyone could afford it.

“I got motivation and willpower from the people who first joined the vaccine trial. They made me feel confident and didn’t feel anxious when signing up as a volunteer.”

N.D.T, another volunteer, said he had absolute confidence in the Vietnamese vaccine and wanted everyone to support the trial.

“If no one enters the trial it will not be successful,” he said.

The production unit and volunteers are essential to have a made-in-Viet Nam COVID-19 vaccine but the people who recruit trial participants are also very important.

Trần Bá ​​Hiếu, a researcher of the Institute of Biomedicine and Pharmacy, said more than 500 people registered for the first trial but only 60 met the requirements.

“When providing counselling for volunteers, we must clearly explain the benefits and regulations when participating in research to properly evaluate the safety and effectiveness of vaccines,” Hiếu said.

As the first unit in Việt Nam to conduct a clinical trial, Hiếu and his colleagues felt honoured but also under pressure.

The researchers have to determine if the vaccine is safe and if it is effective.

“To accurately answer these questions, we have to ensure we don’t bypass any stage so that people can feel secure,” he said.

Hiếu said he received 200 phone calls and registration messages on the first day of the recruitment campaign.

“We are touched, impressed and thankful to the volunteers who have always accompanied us and contributed to the country,” he said.

Hiếu also said although Nanogen Biotechnology Joint Stock Company (Nanogen Company) had evaluated the vaccine’s safety on animals, no one could assure safety in humans without a trial. However, the volunteers overcame all those fears and worries.

Talking about the recruitment process, Hiếu said he was impressed by the enthusiasm of the volunteers.

Despite the fact that only people aged 18-60 were recruited for the second phase of the trial, many people over the age of 60 still registered for the vaccine trial.

Many of his colleagues couldn’t sleep the night before the first trial, Hiếu recalled.

“No one dared take a nap, we just hoped that time would pass quickly to proceed with the injection and wait for the evaluation results.

“Fortunately, after 24 hours, none of the first three volunteers had an adverse reaction, so we were partially relieved,” he said.

The results of the first phase have shown that 60 participants have very good immunogenicity results and no serious side effects.

When asked about his hopes, Hiếu said: “I think not only myself but all Vietnamese people share the desire that this vaccine will be effective and safe to put an end to the pandemic and put the Vietnamese name on the world vaccine map.”

Vũ Ngọc Hoàn, one of Hiếu’s colleagues, said the vaccine research team was confident and had higher expectations when entering the second phase with the standard for recruiting volunteers relaxed and the age frame expanded to 12-75 years old.

“We expect an extensive trial injection in the community will take place in May. However, it depends on the production by Nanogen Company.

“It is hoped that by the end of this year we will complete the third phase of the research,” Hoàn said, adding that people’s consent was essential to the success of the vaccine. — VNS

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