Global vaccine organization hails Vietnam’s success against Covid-19

By Minh Nga   May 27, 2020 | 09:30 pm PT
Global vaccine organization hails Vietnam’s success against Covid-19
A medical staff takes swab sample of a man for Covid-19 test in Ha Loi Village, then a Covid-19 hotpot in Hanoi, April 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
Vietnam was quick to respond to and remains in control of Covid-19, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization said.

The country has experience in responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases like SARS, MERS and measles, and in the case of the novel coronavirus, the country "relied on relatively cost-effective solutions: quick strategic testing, aggressive contact tracing, effective public communication campaigns and swift development of testing kits," GAVI said in a post published on its website this week.

When the first reports of Covid-19 infections came out of China, Vietnam acted swiftly, it said.

Familiar with recent epidemics, it closely monitored border areas to prevent the spread of the new virus.

On January 11, when China reported the first coronavirus death, Vietnam began health checks at airports: All visitors had their temperature screened, and those with Covid-19 symptoms such as fever, cough, chest pain, or breathing difficulties were isolated for testing.

Their fellow passengers and crew and their contacts were then quarantined for 14 days.

The Ministry of Health had held a meeting with the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as early as January 15, weeks before many other countries even started their strategies.

Later, when cases were confirmed, Vietnam quarantined the communities where they were detected.

These combined efforts of quick action and effective testing helped slow the spread of the virus in its earliest stages.

As the virus spread around the world, Vietnam began a mandatory 14-day quarantine for everyone entering the country and canceled all foreign flights from late March.

People showing Covid-19 symptoms were closely monitored at medical facilities, and their contacts were traced.

Using the ministry’s records of suspected and diagnosed cases, extensive contact tracing was made possible. Even neighbors were encouraged to report if they knew of someone returning from a foreign country.

Technology was also used for contact tracing.

A mobile app called NCOVI was developed by the Ministry of Information and Communications to let the public update their health status daily. It also shared hotspots of new cases and listed ‘best practices’ for staying healthy.

This was supported by an online reporting system developed by the health ministry to monitor suspected and confirmed cases. These combined efforts ensured that new infections were reported and isolated.

Effective public communications campaigns were another factor that contributed to Vietnam’s achievements in the Covid-19 fight.

GAVI said Vietnam did not shy away from broadcasting the seriousness of Covid-19, referring to a pop music video that went viral.

Supported by the government, the video, "Ghen Co Vy," used a catchy song to communicate the importance of hand washing, a crucial step that had been officially recommended to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

On March 19 Vietnam launched a fundraising campaign to buy medical and protective equipment for people working closely with Covid-19 patients. By April 5 more than 2.1 million donations had been sent via a text message platform. 

Both of these public campaigns successfully raised awareness of the pandemic, helping suppress its spread.

On January 23 Vietnam became one of the first countries to report a Covid-19 infection and the first to human-to-human transmission outside China after a Chinese man became infected and transmitted it to his son in Ho Chi Minh City.

The country had 327 cases without any deaths. It has not reported community transmission for 42 days.

Some reports claimed Vietnam had zero Covid-19 deaths because of insufficient testing but according to GAVI, that was not true.

The country had bought 200,000 tests from South Korea, and also quickly developed its own test kits.

The Vietnamese Covid-19 test kit was developed by scientists within a month. It was effective, affordable and fast, diagnosing infections in just an hour.

Using WHO-approved techniques, these test kits made it possible to isolate infected people and track down their contacts.

Unlike other countries that resorted to mass testing, Vietnam only tested those likely to be infected. The country has performed more than 261,000 Covid-19 tests, according to its Health Ministry.

The country implemented a nationwide social distancing period from April 1 to 15, and extended it for another week in risky areas, including the largest cities Hanoi and HCMC.

GAVI said time would tell if these measures, a crucial part of Vietnam's "Covid-19 success story," would continue to keep the number of infected people down, but it was likely.

"Vietnam proves that sometimes less is more, even during Covid-19," it said.

GAVI is an international organization created in 2000 to improve access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world's poorest countries.

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