Vietnam has become the fourth country in the world and the second in Southeast Asia to be able to produce an anti-diarrhea vaccine for children.

Research done to manufacture the Rotavin-M1 vaccine has been successful, said Le Thi Luan, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Health (MoH)'s Centre for Research and Production of Vaccines and Biologicals.

Rotavin-M1 was produced from the cell of an African blue monkey's (Macaca Mulatta) kidney. To have a clean source of monkeys for research and production of the vaccine, MoH set up a facility on Reu Island in the northern province of Quang Ninh for the purpose of breeding and supplying them.

The project, which began in 1998, focused on the creation of the Rota virus for the purpose of developing a vaccine and designing a production process, said Luan.

"The quality of the vaccine is equivalent to Belgium's Rotarix vaccine, which has been used in Vietnam," she said.

Each dose of the domestic vaccine would cost around 200,000 VND (9.5 USD), one-third that of imported vaccines.

It was tested on 30 adults and 1,000 children aged from 12 weeks to six years for the past three years in northern Phu Tho province's Thanh Son district and Thai Binh province's Thai Binh city. Test results showed the vaccine was safe for both adults and children.

The vaccine has been evaluated by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and approved for use by the National Institute for Control of Vaccines and Biologicals.

MoH granted a product license for the vaccine to be sold in the domestic market last May. So far some 100,000 children in 60 localities have received the vaccine, Luan said.

If it is used in the national vaccination programme, the Centre for Research and Production of Vaccines and Biologicals can supply about 4.5 million of doses per year, she said.

The vaccine must be administered orally, not injected. The first dose should be given when the children are between six and ten months old, and the booster dose two months after the first.

Diarrhea caused by the Rota virus is an acute intestinal inflammation.

In Vietnam, more than 50 percent of children under five years old suffer from the disease each year, according to MoH statistics. About 5,300-6,800 children under five years are estimated to die of the disease each year.-VNA