Vietnam hastens Covid-19 vaccination campaign out of expiration concerns
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“We must not discard any vaccine because of their expiry date. If localities don't use up all the vaccine shots they have been provided with, the Health Ministry would reclaim all the shots instead,” Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said at the online meeting on strengthening Covid-19 prevention and vaccination on April 16 morning.
Accordingly, the batch of over 800,000 doses distributed by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca via the global vaccine access mechanism Covax would expire on May 31. As such, the Health Ministry mandated all provinces and cities to complete their second Covid-19 vaccination round ahead of May 5, 10 days earlier than the May 15 deadlines previously issued by medical authorities.
Earlier at the Government meeting on April 15, the Prime Minister also directed all localities and the Health Ministry to “leave no doses of Covid-19 vaccine discarded due to the inability to carry out vaccination”.
Regarding vaccination safety, the Minister confirmed that Vietnam would proceed with its plan using the AstraZeneca vaccine. To date, over 73,000 prioritized individuals have been given the jabs, of which 33 percent experience mild reactions post-injection. All the side effects wore off within one or two days, no medical care needed. Only 1 percent of recipients report serious reactions after getting the vaccine, which is evaluated as “way lower a rate than in other countries.”
The Health Ministry also stressed that Vietnam’s vaccination protocol is implemented at a very high safety level and differently than other countries, including developed ones.
“The Health Ministry sets very high safety criteria for the vaccination program, even exceeds the required threshold,” a spokesperson from the Health Ministry was quoted by VTC News. “We believe with such a team of specialists, we could well handle unexpected side effects after injection.”
A medical worker holds up a Covid-19 vaccine dose by AstraZeneca at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, March 8, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Vietnam received 117,600 AstraZeneca vaccine doses through its order from the producer in late February and another 811,200 doses through Covax on April 1. The ministry has distributed vaccine doses to 28 cities and provinces.
Over 73,000 people have been vaccinated nationwide. They are officers, medical staff directly treating Covid-19 patients, or performing tasks including taking samples, testing, contact tracing; members of Covid-19 prevention Steering Committee, police officers. Some provinces, cities are planning to launch the second round of vaccination.
There have been no cases of blood clots recorded. All recipients with severe reactions were timely treated and now in stable health conditions.
Therefore, Vietnam will continue its Covid-19 inoculation campaign using the AstraZeneca vaccine, said the Health Ministry.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said blood clots were very rare side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine, adding that the vaccine's benefits far outweigh its risks. Thus, countries should continue to use it.
The world is experiencing an insufficient supply of vaccines. Therefore, Vietnam has had to make efforts to procure the vaccines to inoculate its citizens.
The first Covid-19 vaccination round is expected to be completed within this month.
Duong Thi Hong, deputy director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said vaccine doses typically don't last more than two months. The Covid-19 vaccine is a new type of vaccine, and as such safety cautions for it are continually being updated.
Vietnam aims to secure around 150 million vaccine doses to cover 70 percent of its population by next year.
Eight imported cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Vietnam in the past 12 hours to 6 pm on April 17. All the new patients, all Vietnamese citizens returning from abroad, have been put into quarantine immediately after their arrival. Meanwhile, no new cases found this morning.
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