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Vietnam Plans Human Trial of Bird Flu Vaccine

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The NIHE project is one of Vietnam's three research drives for a bird flu vaccine, along with work at the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City and at the national vaccine producer IVAC in Nha Trang. In April the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, India and Mexico would receive grants to produce flu vaccine locally and bolster global protection against a threatened pandemic. WHO's Vietnam chief Hans Troedsson said the UN body was "looking favourably" at a request to grant the IVAC project up to 2.5 million dollars.

Avian influenza has so far tended to infect people in close contact with H5N1-positive birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate to be more easily transmitted from human to human, triggering a global pandemic. Iademarco praised Vietnam for launching three different research projects in the search for a human avian influenza vaccine. "Each one of these three vaccines has a different background in biology, and I actually think it's smart that Vietnam is investing in three technologies at this early stage in research and development," he said. He cautioned that developing an H5N1 vaccine was a complex task. "It's not like seasonal flu where we can vaccinate 10,000 people and figure out if it's working or not," he said.

"The challenge with a pandemic influenza vaccination is that you have to work just as quickly, you don't have the experience behind you, and the consequences of failure are much higher." The trials would improve the skills of Vietnamese epidemiologists and help the country deal with future health threats, including dangerous new strains of the flu, Iademarco said. Vietnam's long-term goal, he said, "is to develop influenza vaccine capacity, because it's H5N1 today, but who knows what it's going to be tomorrow in terms of a virus with pandemic potential?"


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