Covid yet to become common illness: health ministry

By Viet Tuan   August 11, 2022 | 10:40 pm PT
Covid yet to become common illness: health ministry
A girl has her health checked before getting Covid-19 vaccine in Hanoi in April 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu
The end of Covid-19 should not be declared yet since its incidence has not stabilized and continues to fluctuate, the Ministry of Health has said.

In a communication to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Wednesday, it said for Covid to be considered a common illness, it needs to meet certain criteria like occurring in a specific population group or area and incidence being stable and predictable.

However, in most countries, the number of infections has been fluctuating and the trajectory of infections changes every time there is a new variant of the novel coronavirus.

The new variants constantly appear as immunity, built up either via vaccination or infection, is not stable and decreases over time, the ministry said.

As a result, the disease could flare up again, it said.

In March the PM had instructed the ministry to evaluate the degree of protection antibodies provide against the coronavirus.

Covid has been under control across the country, but the number of cases increased again recently and there are still deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that Vietnam is among the top four countries in terms of number of cases.

It has been recording over 571,000 new cases the past week, only behind South Korea (713,000 cases), the U.S. (760,000) and Japan (1.4 million cases), WHO said.

To declare the end of Covid-19 as a pandemic, several conditions need to be met, including "detecting no new cases for 28 days in a row" the ministry said.

If Vietnam does make such a declaration, special mechanisms would not be imposed if a new and more dangerous variant appears, it pointed out.

Then Covid patients would stop getting free treatment, including those living in remote areas without easy access to medical services, and medical workers would not get special allowances. There would be no specific mechanisms for emergency use of vaccines.

Maintaining the current status ensures focus and mobilization of all available resources to fight the pandemic, the ministry said.

"Vietnam has basically met the necessary conditions for the transition from pandemic prevention to sustainable management, but still needs to be alert to new variants of the virus."

Vietnam has among the highest vaccine coverage rates in the world with 247 million vaccine doses given to its 79.4 million people.

Since April the ministry has expanded the vaccination to cover children aged five and upward. Those aged 12 and above are being given booster shots and a fourth dose is highly recommended for high-risk adults.

The ministry also wants to keep Covid-19 in group A, which comprises dangerous infectious diseases with the ability to spread quickly and widely, and have a high mortality rate or an unknown causative agent.

Some others in this group include influenza A - H5N1, plague, smallpox, dengue fever, and cholera.

So far no country has declared Covid a common illness.

Some have fixed criteria to consider it an endemic disease, including low mortality, reduced rate of severe cases requiring hospitalization, and high vaccine coverage of various age groups, especially high-risk populations.

In March WHO released an updated plan with key strategies to allow the world to end the emergency phase of the pandemic if implemented within this year.

They include vaccinating 70 percent of the world against Covid.

As of August 9 some 62.8 percent were fully vaccinated with at least two doses.

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