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First batch of vaccine under Covax to arrives in Vietnam next month

Rosy Huong Rosy Huong

huongthhd@gmail.com

March 25, 2021 | 07:45

More than 811,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to Hanoi next month via the WHO-led Vaccines Global Access (Covax) initiative.

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UNICEF is leading the procurement and delivery of these vaccines through the COVAX Facility, a partnership with World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The COVAX Facility aims to make COVID-19 vaccines available to all countries, regardless of their income. Photo: UNICEF

More than 811,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be delivered to Hanoi next month via the WHO-led Vaccines Global Access (Covax) initiative, according to a UNICEF official.

"We will receive the first tranche for Vietnam by the middle of April, and that will be 811,200 doses," Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Vietnam, was quoted by VnExpress as saying on March 24.

The accurate date for the shipment will only be confirmed 24 hours before it arrives, she added.

By the end of May, UNICEF has been told to expect 4.1 million doses of the vaccine to come in, and then over the rest of the year, Vietnam will be able to vaccinate 20 percent of the population as promised.

She said earlier information that the first doses would arrive by the end of March was revised late March 23 afternoon because of supply issues. This delay is not about the money for Covax, it's about how many vaccines are available for distribution, she said.

Covax, or the Global Covid-19 Vaccine Facility, is a global mechanism for the development, manufacture and procurement of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, facilitating and supporting member countries to access the vaccines as they become available.

On March 23, Professor Dang Duc Anh, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and program head, said 4.177 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine accessed via the Covax program would not reach Vietnam by April as planned due to limited supply. Around 33 million doses that Covax has pledged for Vietnam in the second half of this year may be delayed until next year, he said.

Flowers said there was a vaccine supply challenge at this time, because manufacturers cannot produce the vaccine quickly enough to meet the demand of all the countries. An increased production capacity will come online over the next few months, but even that is going a bit slower than the companies had predicted.

"Therefore, we are facing a delay at this time," Flowers said.

More shortages

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Vietnam is expected to acquire 150 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from foreign and domestic sources by 2022. Photo: VTC

UNICEF is also seeing a global shortage of syringes and cold chain items and refrigerators. These matters are being discussed by the U.N. agency and Vietnam, Flowers said.

In the near future, Covax is likely to look at procuring the Pfizer vaccine, as well as the one produced by Johnson & Johnson, recently added to the list. When these vaccines go into increased production, the supply will improve.

Regarding vaccine prices under Covax, Flowers said UNICEF has been able to negotiate with the manufacturers to buy the vaccine at a much cheaper rate than the market price that is being offered to countries. The prices vary between the vaccines. However, she did not have a clear and precise figure to cite.

"I can say the figure is much reduced. In some cases, it's much less than half (the market price)."

75 percent of population should be vaccinated

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Vietnam began its mass vaccination campaign on March 8. Photo: MoH

Flowers emphasized that Vietnam needs to get 75 percent of the Vietnamese population vaccinated before opening the economy and allowing international travel. Vietnam and partners should help people understand the importance of getting vaccinated. It is not just to protect their health but also to ensure the economy can bounce back, she said.

As for infrastructure, UNICEF will support the Vietnamese government in buying additional fridges, freezers, refrigerated trucks to ship the vaccines, she said.

Vietnam is expected to acquire 150 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from foreign and domestic sources by 2022. Besides the deal with AstraZeneca, Vietnam is also stepping up negotiations with the U.S.'s Pfizer and Moderna, along with other vaccine manufacturers in Russia and China.

Vietnam began its mass vaccination campaign on March 8. So far, 36,082 medical staff and frontline workers in 16 localities have received the first shot of the vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca.

Though there has been one case of third-degree and five cases of second-degree anaphylaxis, all those vaccinated are now in stable condition, allowing the country to proceed with its inoculation program.

The health ministry expects Vietnam to start producing its own COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year’s third quarter.

Safety of AstraZeneca vaccine

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Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti affirms the safety of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a meeting with the press on March 23. Photo: VNA

Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti, head of the EU Delegation to Vietnam, and some ambassadors of EU member countries on March 23 affirmed the safety of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the VNA reported.

During a meeting with the press before the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrives in Vietnam via the Covax initiative, Ambassador Aliberti said the EU has put the safety of the vaccine first.

Regarding the suspension of AstraZeneca vaccine rollouts by certain EU countries, the ambassador said the EU’s competent agencies have made efforts in tracing scientific evidence proving the safety of the vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recently allowed to resume the inoculation, he added.

The cases of vaccination side effects found in Europe over the past time are very rare, about only one in one million vaccinated people, according to the ambassador.

Echoing Aliberti’s view, German Ambassador to Vietnam Guido Hildner said seven out of 1.7 million vaccinated people in Germany have experienced side effects. However, the German Government then agreed to resume the vaccination following cautious assessments.

Vaccinated people must be under close supervision following the injection, he suggested./.

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Rosy Huong