First COVID-19 vaccine batch reached Việt Nam

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The vaccine containers being disinfected after the cargo plane landed in Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, HCM City, Wednesday morning. — Photo from the Ministry of Health

HCM CITY — The first doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have arrived Wednesday afternoon at Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, HCM City.

Vietnamese deputy health minister Trương Quốc Cường and Emily Hamblin, Consul General in HCM City, each holding their respective country’s flags, and representatives from the importer, Việt Nam Vaccine JSC (VNVC), were present at the Tân Sơn Nhất airport to welcome the delivery of 117,600 doses.

This is a part of the initial order 204,000 which was given emergency approval by the health ministry, after a surge in community outbreaks in the last 27 days.

VNVC has signed a contract with AstraZeneca last November to procure a total of 30 million doses that will be delivered in phases throughout 2021.

This is in addition to about 30 million doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines that will be made available to Việt Nam via the WHO-led Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative.

The containers, delivered on a Korean Air flight KE351 (using Boeing cargo plane B77L) from Seoul, South Korea (SK Bioscience is one of the three global producers of the AstraZeneca vaccines), were disinfected then transported to specialised cold chain storage facility run by VNVC.

Also today, the flag carrier Vietnam Airlines said they have resources available – including cold containers, trained staff, and other logistical conditions – to satisfy the stringent requirements to transport vaccines, and have set up a specialised task force on the ready to respond to requests from the Government.

Previously, Trịnh Văn Quyết, Chairman of Bamboo Airways, also pledged to help transport COVID-19 vaccines to Việt Nam if the Government permits.

Rollout plan

The Vietnamese Government said the COVID-19 vaccines (supplied via COVAX initiative) will be given free to the population under the National Expanded Immunisation Programme, but there will still be ‘paid service’ doses.

Health authorities yesterday revealed its vaccine rollout plan, designating 11 priority groups to be given the first jabs: medical workers; people directly involved anti-pandemic efforts (COVID-19 prevention and control steering committees of all levels, quarantine facility staff, reporters, etc.); diplomats, customs officers and people working entry and exit procedures; military personnel; public security forces; teachers; elders above 65 years old; essential service workers (aviation, transport, tourism staff, utility workers, etc.); people with chronic health issues; people who want to study or work overseas; and people in virus-hit regions.

The priority ranking is evaluated based on criteria such as areas where COVID-19 cases are present, areas with COVID-19 deaths occurred, major cities with high population density and localities considered traffic and transit hubs.

Việt Nam aims to inoculate 80 per cent of its over 90 million population to achieve herd immunity against coronavirus. — VNS

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