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Vietnam Vaccinates 20,000, Commits to Acquire 90 Million More Doses

2021-03-17 -- Vietnam has vaccinated more than 20,000 against COVID-19 as of Wednesday, and Hanoi has made commitments to get 90 million more vaccines while developing a homegrown version, state media reported.

At a morning meeting of the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 and Control, Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said that the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered into 20,695 people.

Long told the committee that Vietnam had been successful in controlling the epidemic and stopping its spread on a large scale.

Vietnam has been among the most effective countries in tackling COVID-19, reporting no deaths among its 95 million people through late July 2020—a record that was attributed to effective contact tracing, strict quarantines, and early testing.

As of Wednesday, the country confirmed a total of 2,560 cases and 35 deaths.

Of inoculations reported Wednesday, Long said that priority had been given to healthcare workers directly treating COVID-19 patients or taking specimens, those involved in testing and tracing, and members of community groups and steering committees fighting against the disease.

The minister also downplayed concerns about the side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine after several countries in Europe temporarily stopped using it because some who received it reported blood clots, prompting a World Health Organization investigation. Long said that Vietnamese who had displayed symptoms of the vaccine's side effects are now stable.

According to ministry statistics, 4,078 of the vaccinated had "normal reactions" after vaccination. Five people experienced an allergic reaction called grade 2 anaphylaxis and one with more severe grade 3 anaphylaxis. There were zero cases of blood clots reported.

Vietnam has joined the global COVAX initiative aimed at providing equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines. The program has committed to providing Hanoi with around 30 million doses, with 4 million set to arrive through the end of May.

Vietnam is buying another 30 million doses from AstraZeneca through a domestic company called VNVC. It has so far received more than 100,000 doses from this agreement.

The ministry is also working with Pfizer to buy another 30 million vaccines through the end of this year and is in negotiation to buy more from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and the maker of Russia's Sputnik-V vaccine.

A delegation from Russia that arrived in Vietnam Tuesday for security talks presented a gift from President Vladimir Putin of 1,000 doses of Sputnik-V.

Vaccine passport

Also at Wednesday's committee meeting, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that the government is considering resuming international commercial flights and is preparing to issue so-called vaccine passports—digital certificates that identify travelers who have been vaccinated.

State media reported that Phuc commended the country's efforts to contain the virus but called on the country to continue to adhere to the prevention measures.

"This war hasn't ended yet and we still have a lot to do. The epidemic can come back at any time if neglected," he said.

Phuc asked the Ministry of Health to work with related agencies to effectively implement the vaccine passport program and called on the ministry to continue developing homegrown vaccines to put them into use by the end of 2022 at the latest.

Reuters reported that the ministry said Nanocovax, a Vietnamese-made COVID-19 vaccine would be available in the fourth quarter of 2021 and would be widely used in 2022.

Among four Vietnamese firms developing COVID-19 vaccines, Nanocovax and Coviva are at the human testing stage.

Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Chau Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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