KUALA LUMPUR – Ho Wah Genting Berhad (HWGB or the Company) (Bursa Stock Code: 9601) had entered into a joint venture agreement on 17 November, through its wholly- owned subsidiary HWGB Biotech Sdn Bhd, with US-based E-Mo Biology Inc.
(EBI) for the research and development of vaccines, immunological treatment and diagnostic product in relation to COVID-19. Once Phase IV clinical trial is proven successful for the new indication of oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV), HWGB will begin the production and distribution of its own COVID-19 vaccine. OPV is safe, relatively affordable and can be administered easily as well as its widespread availability in medical industry.
Safety and Effectiveness of the Oral Poliovirus Vaccine
Well accepted by most public health programmes, OPVs are extremely safe and effective, offering long-lasting protection against targeted virus. Both the poliovirus and coronavirus are positive-strand RNA viruses, so it is likely that they will induce and be affected by common innate immunity mechanisms.
OPV is inexpensive and remarkably affordable. Only one dose is sufficient for the vaccine to take effect. In addition, OPVs are administered orally and do not require health professionals or sterile needle syringes. As such, OPVs are easy to administer in mass vaccination campaigns.
General Manager, Medical & Pharmaceutical Research of HWGB Biotech, Dr Yaman Walid Kassab, expressed: “As the world searches for a way to end the coronavirus pandemic, the race is on to find and produce a vaccine. The type of production facilities needed will depend on which kind of vaccine turns out to work best.”
He further stated that, if billions of people need a new kind of vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 while Pharmaceutical firms continue to produce the normal array of shots against influenza, measles, mumps, rubella and other diseases, there could be a production shortage.
Most COVID-19 vaccines currently in development require a strict temperature-controlled environment of -70°C, unlike the poliovirus vaccine that can be stored at 4-8°C. OPV does not require a high-performing active thermal shipper.
The time to move shippers into an active air cargo container, therefore, can typically be shortened by more than 10 days. Reduced lead time for advance planning and lease forecasting will ensure an adequate supply of containers for OPV distribution without negatively affecting the distribution of other pharmaceuticals.
Covid-19 vaccines require advanced freezers that can reach extremely low temperatures (minus 80 °C) when compared against poliovirus vaccines. At the same time, trucks that provide refrigerated transportation for the pharmaceutical industry will have to comply with the varying storage requirements of different vaccines.
As a result, it can be quite challenging to maintain the cold chain from production through delivery to distributors or distribution centres. Cold storage capacity in the Asia Pacific region is limited compared to developed Western markets.
In the case of poliovirus vaccine, given that there would not be much loss in virus titre for up to a year when stored at 4-8°C, there is less hassle with storage and transportation.
Read more: The race against COVID-19