Việt Nam to begin COVID-19 vaccinations on March 8: Health minister

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Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long at Friday meeting of the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control. — VNA/VNS Photo Doãn Tấn

HÀ NỘI — Vaccinations using the recently-imported AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are expected to start on Monday, Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long informed a meeting of the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control on Friday.

The first batch comprising over 117,600 doses of the vaccine manufactured in the Republic of Korea (RoK), arrived in Việt Nam on February 24. After holding working sessions with the producer, Việt Nam has obtained an accreditation certificate for the batch from the RoK.

Long said the doses, verified by the ministry, met the conditions for vaccination in Việt Nam.

On Saturday, the health minister will chair a conference to launch the vaccination plan and provide training for medical staff nationwide in the use and storage of the vaccine, as well as the handling of post-injection complications.

According to the official, priority for vaccination will be given to people at the front line of the fight against COVID-19, including health, army, police, customs and immigration personnel; those working in sectors offering essential services like aviation, transport, tourism and education; people with chronic illnesses or above 65 years old; those living in pandemic-hit areas; the poor and beneficiaries of social welfare.

Those who get the shots will be monitored via digital health records and receive e-certificates for their completion of inoculation.

Five million doses of vaccines, mostly manufactured by AstraZeneca, are expected to be provided to Việt Nam this year through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility programme conducted by the World Health Organization, GAVI, UNICEF and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Another 25 million doses under this initiative are slated to arrive in Việt Nam next year.

At the meeting of the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam said the safety of the vaccination programme should be ensured at the highest level as a task of utmost importance.

“The mass vaccination might have incidents. If we don’t prepare well, the incidents will turn into serious ones,” he told the meeting.

He urged for accelerating the research and production of locally-made vaccines, saying “the process must follow all of the requested steps but must be completed as soon as possible”.

“If Việt Nam can successfully develop domestic vaccines, we can have enough stocks for the population of 100 million people,” Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam said at a meeting of the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control on Friday. — VNA/VNS Photo Doãn Tấn

Việt Nam has three local vaccine candidates, one of which has finished the first trial phase with good results and is in the second phase. The other two will enter human trials in the near future.

“If Việt Nam can successfully develop domestic vaccines, we can have enough stocks for the population of 100 million people. According to preliminary information, the COVID-19 vaccine only produces antibodies for a certain time. It is likely that the vaccines must be injected repeatedly every year. This is also an opportunity for Việt Nam’s vaccine study capacity to reach a new level in order to prepare and respond to other diseases that may occur in the future.”

“Vaccines are a long-term solution to control the pandemic globally in six months to one year. In spite of that, we must still strictly follow preventive measures as we have done,” he said.

Đam urged people to maintain their vigilance and asked schools, healthcare facilities, markets, supermarkets and hotels to self assess their safety level and update it on a COVID-19 safety map at antoancovid.vn.

Venues that fail to update the safety level will have their activities suspended, he said.

The Deputy Prime Minister tasked the health ministry, the ministries of foreign affairs, culture, sports and tourism with mapping out plans and creating conditions for those who have been vaccinated in other countries to enter Việt Nam in the coming time while still ensuring safety. — VNS

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