The Head of State ordered the allocation of additional funds to the Healthcare Ministry from the reserve fund of the President in the amount of Br140m (more than $56m). Moreover, Aleksandr Lukashenko signed a decree on the implementation of an investment project to organise the production of a domestic vaccine against COVID-19 at the premises of BelVitunipharm JSC in 2021-2023. We learned from the experts what the money will be spent on and how the development of the Belarusian drug is progressing today.
Chemist Alina Yablochkina in the quality control department of the physical and chemical control laboratory at BelVitunipharm JSC Photo by Anton Stepanishche
Vaccine, drugs, and a focus on routine care
The press service of the President stressed that Br140m (more than $56m) will be spent on the purchase of vaccines against coronavirus, as well as various drugs: anticancer, anti-tuberculosis, heart and others. All this will ensure the high-quality provision of medical care, including planned and uninterrupted supply of medicines and vaccines to healthcare organisations.
Margarita Dosina, Head of the Science Department of the Healthcare Ministry:
A prototype has already been received, the strains that will be included in the vaccine have been worked out and its effectiveness is being tested. According to the plan, by the end of 2023, the drug should be released into use. A pilot batch should appear by the end of June 2022. There are many vaccines on the market today, but we will produce our own analogue, which will be the same in terms of effectiveness but the price, of course, will be cheaper. This will make it possible to vaccinate more patients. In addition, we will carry out the volume of tests that will allow us to export it. However, first of all, we will certainly satisfy the needs of Belarusians.
New trends in the development of pharmacology
We all remember how, in mid-August, the President visited an enterprise near Vitebsk, where it is planned to produce a Belarusian vaccine against COVID-19. The Head of State emphasised that we need to look to the future: after COVID, a new problem will come and we need to be ready for it. How? To develop other vaccines as well. It is necessary to be independent in this issue because whoever has a life-saving drug will dictate their own conditions on the market. The rest have no chance of an opinion: they have to ‘obey’: this was demonstrated to us by the situation with the pandemic.
The vaccine race began just a couple of months after the start of the pandemic: almost every country with large pharmaceutical industries sought to quickly release a drug that would save humanity from the epidemic. The rivalry continues to this day and the competition is intensifying. In addition to vaccines, which are already well known, other drugs are being developed. And not only in the form of vaccination, but also a pill or spray. This topic will definitely not lose its relevance in the coming years, so Belarus should not lag behind. Of course, vaccine production is a complex and high-tech process, but our scientists have an advantage. They have the opportunity to analyse dozens of strains and select the most relevant virus variants for a domestic drug. Scientists promise that our vaccine will be effective and safe.
The new presidential decree states that the investment project provides for the construction of a vaccine production plant in the village of Dolzha, Vitebsk Region (with the reconstruction of the existing facility). The production base of BelVitunipharm JSC is determined by the Government as the most promising site for the pilot industrial production of vaccines, based on the degree of readiness of the infrastructure, the availability of trained specialists, as well as the possibility of further development of the biotechnological cluster. The development of a domestic vaccine is being carried out by organisations subordinate to the Healthcare Ministry and the National Academy of Sciences: a series of prototype versions of the drug has now been prepared.
The decree provides for the exemption of technological equipment, raw materials and materials imported into the country for the implementation of an investment project from the imposition of import customs duties and value added tax.
COMMENT ON THE TOPIC
Sergei Belyaev, General Director of RUE Belmedpreparaty:
Together with BelVitunipharm, we have created an enterprise whose main goal is to create a Belarusian vaccine against coronavirus. At the first stage, this process will consist of two parts: we plan to produce the active component at BelVitunipharm and the finished vaccine at the Belmedpreparaty facilities. In parallel, the design and construction of a production complex will be carried out, which will make it possible to make the vaccine in a full cycle: this is planned for 2023-2024. We are launching the first stage next year: the vaccine will go to preclinical and clinical trials so that we can prove its safety and evaluate its effectiveness. Most likely, the Belarusian vaccine will be a two-dose one-component where a single component is injected twice.