Americans in Vietnam frustrated their government not giving them Covid jab

By Viet Anh   June 14, 2021 | 05:45 pm PT
U.S. citizens living in Vietnam are disappointed their government has not vaccinated them given the surplus at home.

Jamie McIntyre, an American living in HCMC, said: "I'm thrilled that my home country has so rapidly rolled out a vaccination program. I'm relieved that my family and friends in the U.S. are safe and vaccinated, but I'm left asking 'What about the rest of us? We pay taxes, we vote'."

At the moment the U.S. is essentially "bribing" citizens to get vaccinated in the hope of achieving herd immunity, offering everything from free beer to four-year scholarships, even a million dollars, said McIntyre, an English teacher who has been in Vietnam since 2019.

She was informed that all military bases and overseas service workers "either have been or in the process of being vaccinated." If there's a surplus in doses and an infrastructure that’s already transported millions of vaccines internationally, it's disheartening that around nine million tax-paying Americans abroad have been ignored by the U.S., she said.

"Our tax dollars went toward purchase, production and distribution of those vaccines. So where is the Biden administration's sense of urgency to take care of us too?"

A teenage student receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the COVID-19 outside the Bronx Writing Academy school in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 4, 2021. Photo by Reuters.

A teenage student receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the Covid-19 outside the Bronx Writing Academy school in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S., June 4, 2021. Photo by Reuters.

Roger Woodberry, an English teacher who has been in Vietnam for five years, said a bunch of American expats in Thailand petitioned the State Department for vaccine distribution, but it replied it would be a "logistical nightmare" to vaccinate Americans living overseas.

He called it a "strange excuse."

In fact, he sent a request to the U.S. consulate in HCMC asking to exercise his right to be vaccinated as an American citizen, but he did not receive the response that he expected.

Greg Lipman, who has been in Vietnam for over 10 years, said it is definitely hard to understand why the U.S. does not supply the vaccine to Americans living abroad.

Lipman, a freelance translator, knew one of British organizations in Vietnam that has vaccinated its workers and the Vietnamese government has no restrictions on foreign embassies administering the vaccine, he said.

Global responsibility

On a global scale, Michael Jones (name changed) said the U.S. may "think it would be politically detrimental to be perceived as hording vaccines for only their citizens while most of the developing world suffers."

Also, it has never offered health services to citizens living abroad and "its decision to leave us out in the cold is in keeping with that precedent," he said.

McIntyre said the recent pledge by President Joe Biden to donate 500 million doses on the surface sounds like the solution people have been waiting for, but upon closer inspection, "it is merely a band-aid level fix for a bullet hole of a problem."

"The U.S. would have a surplus of around 500 million doses by September 25, so why then is it projected to take until mid-2022 for the U.S. to fulfill that pledge?" she asked.

McIntyre estimated that Vietnam would see, at best, 430,000 doses of that pledge in the third and fourth quarters of this year for its population of nearly 100 million people. But it does not even scratch the surface of the need.

"As an American, I’m deeply frustrated by the U.S.’s delayed action in the race to global herd immunity."

Jamie McIntyre is in Ha Giang Province in April, 2021. Photo courtesy of Jamie.

Jamie McIntyre is in Ha Giang Province in April, 2021. Photo courtesy of Jamie.

She said the U.S. could ship vaccines in a ratio of one each for American and Vietnamese citizens.

Washington could use the infrastructure already in place, and route distribution through embassies, consulates, military bases, and others, she suggested.

The "1:1 vaccine shipment" for Americans abroad is reasonable and feasible, she said.

If Americans in Vietnam contract Covid, they would be "taking space and resources away from the people of Vietnam," causing further lockdowns or just becoming a hindrance, she pointed out.

McIntyre said if there are around nine million Americans residing outside the country, and each gets two doses of the vaccine along with a matching number for citizens of the host country, it is still less than 40 million doses out of an anticipated surplus of 100 million doses by July 11.

The number would halve to around 20 million if the U.S. sends the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, she said.

She read in the newspapers that on June 12 millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine expired. To call that "infuriating and wasteful will be an understatement," she said.

Willing to wait

Though Jones wants to get a vaccine, he does not plan to return to the U.S. to get it since there are risks and expenses involved in leaving Vietnam like getting Covid at the airport, on the flight or in quarantine.

"I feel safer here in Vietnam and my plan is to wait for the vaccine."

John Anderson (name changed) suggested that Americans in particular and foreigners in Vietnam should wait for vaccines if they are not in a high risk group.

He said they should accept that vaccine shortages depend on the locations.

The U.S has a large number of vaccines, so of course Americans and possibly even expats there could get a shot easily, whereas people in Vietnam have to wait some time, he said.

Lipman too is not overly concerned about not to getting the vaccine yet, and is sure that once it starts to arrive in Vietnam, he would be able to get one.

"I would like to choose which vaccine, so I am expecting to pay at a private hospital."

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