A shift from pharmaceutical production to a more research-based industry in Vietnam is likely, according to Fitch Solutions, a subsidiary of Fitch Group.
“While we expect the government’s efforts will go some way towards improving Vietnam’s manufacturing base, the vast majority of local production will remain focused on cheap generic drugs given their limited technological capabilities,” Fitch Solutions said in a note.
Taking this into account, Fitch Solutions expected it will be a long time before the country can be classed as self-sufficient with regards to its pharmaceutical supply.
With 160 factories meeting World Health Organization-Good Manufacturing Practice standards, the domestic drug output is able to meet 45% of the demand, while the rest must be imported.
Although foreign medicines are likely to dominate in the near future, domestic companies have begun investing in research & development (R&D) activities to build up infrastructures that meet international standards. According to a national survey of local pharmaceutical firms conducted in 2017, 83% of those surveyed ranked the research of new drugs as their predominant strategy.
Meanwhile, the ongoing community transmission outbreak has sped up the vaccine timeline for Vietnam.
On February 18, Vietnam’s health ministry approved the import of 204,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to stem the spread of Covid-19. This would be the first batch out of 30 million doses of vaccine that Vietnam had previously ordered to buy.
The Drug Administration of Vietnam under the Ministry of Health allowed AstraZeneca Vietnam Company to import the doses under emergent circumstances to help fight Covid-19 pandemic which has turned more complicated in Vietnam.
Vietnam is also expected to receive 4.9 million vaccine doses by the end of February 2021, provided via COVAX. The ministry reported that doctors and other staff in frequent contact with Covid-19 patients will be among the first to be vaccinated. Other people on the priority list will be the elderly and those with chronic diseases that make them more vulnerable if they get infected, and officials in the diplomatic service.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stated that, ‘importing Covid-19 vaccines should be a foremost priority of the government’, while calling for research progress on domestic Covid-19 vaccines as well.
Vietnam has four domestic Covid-19 vaccine candidates developed by Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology JSC, the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals, Vabiotech and the Center for Research and Production of Vaccines and Biologicals.
According to Fitch Solutions, the Vietnamese government's support for the local pharmaceutical industry will remain steadfast. This is in part driven by the authorities' push to meet domestic healthcare needs.
The country now able to produce 11 of the 12 vaccines included in the national expanded immunization program. The government is further gearing up to self-finance its vaccine program and reducing its reliance on international funding.
The aim is to achieve mass vaccine production in the country through government-supported investments in manufacturing infrastructure and technology. In addition, the economic potential of the pharmaceutical sector will incentivize continued government support for the domestic industry.