Vietnam says to buy AstraZeneca vaccine, in talks with other producers

Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath

HANOI(Reuters) - Vietnam has agreed to buy 30 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca Plc, the government said on Monday, adding that authorities are also seeking to purchase vaccines from other sources, including Pfizer Inc.

The Southeast Asian country has previously agreed to get a Russian vaccine though also said it would not rush to secure vaccine deals, citing the potential for high financial costs and after managing to contain its coronavirus outbreaks to only 1,494 cases, with 35 deaths.

The AstraZeneca and Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine is cheaper than some others and can be stored at fridge temperature, which makes it easier to transport and use, particularly in developing countries.

"We've already signed an agreement to guarantee the AstraZeneca vaccine for 15 million people, which is equivalent to 30 million doses," deputy health minister Truong Quoc Cuong told a government meeting.

Vietnam is also in talks to purchase vaccines from Pfizer Inc, Russia's Sputnik V and China, the deputy minister said. Cuong did not name the Chinese vaccine candidate.

Cuong also said Vietnam would be eligible to buy vaccines from the World Health Organization's COVAX programme to cover 16%, or 15.6 million of its almost 98 million population, but said more information would be available in the first quarter.

Vietnam, which has yet to give formal regulatory approval to any vaccine, is also developing vaccines domestically.

The country has conducted human trials of its 'Nano Covax' vaccine and a second home-grown vaccine is expected to start undergoing human trials this month.

Vietnam in August said it had signed up for 50 million-150 million doses of the Russian vaccine, though delivery remains unclear.

(This story corrects to clarify COVAX is backed by the World Health Organization and other groups in paragraphs 6 and 7)

(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by Ed Davies)