Indonesia, in cooperation with a Chinese drug maker, will launch the final stage of testing for a new coronavirus vaccine candidate next month and hopes to enter production early next year if the upcoming trial is successful.
Kusnandi Rusmil, a professor at the Padjadjaran Public University in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung, disclosed the plan to Kyodo News in an interview over the weekend.
The vaccine candidate has been developed by Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. along with a team of Indonesian scientists and researchers led by Rusmil, as well as Indonesian state-owned drug maker PT Bio Farma, according to the professor.
"The vaccine (candidate) has passed through the Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials well," he said, explaining that the first two phases took place in China beginning in March, with about 700 volunteers getting involved.
He added that the vaccine candidate has been "proven safe" with regard to potential side effects and has shown effectiveness so far.
The Phase 3 clinical tests will take place in Bandung and two cities in China, including the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the initial epicenter of the virus outbreak.
"The results of the tests in the three cities must be consistent. If they are inconsistent, the vaccine can't be used," Rusmil said.
In Indonesia, volunteers between 18 and 50 years of age will participate in the clinical tests. Of the 1,620 total participants, 540 will have blood taken and vaccinated to check their immunogenicity, or the ability of a foreign substance to provoke an immune response in the body, and the effectiveness of the vaccine taken from deactivated SARS-COVID-2 virus.
The remaining volunteers will be vaccinated immediately to observe any local reaction to the vaccination, such as fever. Each participant will be vaccinated twice, according to Rusmil, with the second conducted a month after the first.
"We will then follow their development for another eight months," said the 70-year-old professor, who is also a pediatrician at Bandung's Hasan Sadikin General Hospital.
"If the clinical test is successful, hopefully we can immediately produce vaccine massively in March 2021, or earlier," he said.
Last week, Indonesian researchers of the Airlangga Public University in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency and the State Intelligence Agency announced they had found five combinations of drugs that could potentially cure patients with the new coronavirus.
The drugs in the five combinations are usually used for treating patients with conditions such as HIV or AIDS, infections caused by bacteria, respiratory and gastric problems, or malaria.
"We use drugs that have been circulated in the market...(because) during this pandemic time, we need something urgently but still consider the safety of the drugs on patients' bodies," said Purwati, head of Airlangga University's Stem Cell Research and Development Center.
Countries and pharmaceutical companies around the globe have been in a race to develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro has said Indonesia would need at least 250 million to 350 million ampoules of a potential vaccine to cover two-thirds of the country's population of 266 million people.
As of noon Monday, Indonesia reported 1,017 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 39,294 with 2,198 fatalities.