Japanese drugmaker Shionogi & Co. has sealed a deal to conduct a placebo-controlled trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in Vietnam and will be expanding it in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, even as criticism of such tests mounts in the scientific community.

The Osaka-based company began testing the efficacy of its shot in Vietnam from Dec. 25, a spokesman at Shionogi said Monday. Participants of the trial, which will eventually total 50,000 volunteers, need to be unvaccinated, the spokesman said, with two-thirds of them receiving the inoculation and others getting a placebo. The company is also planning to analyze whether it’s effective against the omicron strain, the spokesman added.

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