May 20, 2020 / 4:53 AM / 5 days ago

Thailand says it expects coronavirus vaccine next year after tests in mice

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand expects to have a vaccine for the novel coronavirus ready next year, a senior official said on Wednesday, after finding positive trial results in mice.

A boy prepares food to sell as he takes new online learning classes broadcasted by state distance learning television (DLTV) amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a community in Bangkok, Thailand, May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Thailand will begin testing the mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine in monkeys next week after successful trials in mice, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.

“The Thai vaccine is expected to be used next year,” he said.

More than 100 potential vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are being developed, including several in clinical trials, but the World Health Organization in April had warned that a vaccine would take at least 12 months.

The Thai vaccine is being developed by the National Vaccine Institute, the Department of Medical Science and Chulalongkorn University’s vaccine research centre.

Messenger RNA prompts body cells to produce so-called antigens, molecules on the surface of viruses, that spur the immune system into action.

Thailand was ranked fifth globally, just ahead of South Korea, for rapid response to and mitigation of the spread of an epidemic in the Johns Hopkins Global Health Security Index report in 2019.

U.S. drugmaker Moderna Inc’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, the first to be tested in the United States, produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers, according to very early data released by the company on Monday.

Drugmakers such as Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer Inc, which is working with Germany’s BioNTech SE, are also working to develop vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

Thailand, the first country outside China to detect a case of the coronavirus in January, wants to be one of the first to have a vaccine ready for use, Taweesin said.

Thailand has reported a total of 3,034 cases of the coronavirus and 56 deaths.

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel

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