Low immunity rate, varying vaccine efficacy concerns behind Việt Nam’s cautious approach to ‘vaccine passports’

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Vietnamese citizens repatriated from Taiwan (China) in protective suits on April 12, 2021, prepare to be transported to 14-day stay at centralised quarantine facilities. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Director General of the General Department of Preventive Medicine Đặng Quang Tấn has mentioned three reasons for Việt Nam not yet accepting “vaccine passports”.

First, COVID-19 vaccines, he said, only reduce the seriousness of diseases when people are infected, while travel recommendations for vaccinated people have not been fully researched.

Secondly, different countries are administering different COVID-19 vaccines, such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Sputnik V, and Sinovac, with varying protection efficacy, so which country would allow the entries of people injected with which types of vaccines remains a question.

The third and final reason Tấn cited is that the application of vaccine passports should depend on the level of community immunity.

As Việt Nam is largely free of the virus, and the rate of vaccine coverage in the country remains quite low due to shortages, the level of immunity against COVID-19 among the population is very low, so if the management of foreign entries is lax, the risks of virus spread in the community would be “uncontrollable.”

Sunday report from the National Expanded Programme on Immunisation said by 4pm Saturday, nearly 199,000 people in Việt Nam, mostly frontline workers and medical staff, have been inoculated against COVID-19, using AstraZeneca vaccines.

The pandemic continues to spread quickly around the world, with 600,000-700,000 new cases and 1,000-2,000 deaths each day on average.

Việt Nam has now gone about a month without any community transmissions, but the pandemic is showing complicated developments throughout Southeast Asia. Several regional and neighbouring countries are experiencing new outbreaks due to large gatherings of people.

The Health Ministry has proposed that those who receive recommended vaccinations could have their quarantine time reduced, which is waiting for approval from top ministry officials and the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control.

Also according to Tấn, Việt Nam is considering the pilot application of vaccine passports in tourist areas and several golf courses.

A vaccine passport is a certificate proving that one has been vaccinated against COVID-19 as recommended by the manufacturers or State management agencies. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has yet to recommend the scheme. Only Singapore is piloting the measure, on a limited scale. — VNS

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