Middle-east Vietnamese diaspora: vaccination a relief, but it's not over

By Viet Anh   February 27, 2021 | 05:00 pm PT
The Vietnamese diaspora in Israel and the UAE are relieved at receiving Covid-19 vaccinations, but remain wary. Some want to return to Vietnam.

Israel is said to be the number one nation in the world in deploying Covid-19 vaccines, followed by the UAE.

Israel has administered at least one dose of the U.S.’s Pfizer vaccine to more than 46 percent of its nine million population, and the risk of illness from Covid-19 has dropped 95.8 percent among people who received both shots, Reuters reported.

On February 21, Israel reopened large swathes of its economy with the government saying the start of a return to routine has been enabled by Covid-19 vaccines administered to almost half the population.

"I had two doses of vaccine at the end of January and mid February and it felt good," said Doan Thi Nga, a Vietnamese living in Jerusalem.

She said she suffered some tiredness and pain in the arm after receiving the shot, but these reactions disappeared the next day. She can return to normal life and has got the "green pass" from the authorities, meaning she can go to public spaces such as markets and restaurants; and travel to other places.

Nga feels safer now. Three months ago, when her family moved to Israel from Singapore, she was concerned about the way Israelis dealt with the pandemic, which "was not as good as" the Singaporeans.

Pham Thanh Lan, a spa owner in Ramat Yishay, a town in the Northern District of Israel, also said she felt fine after two vaccine doses. She too, experienced brief symptoms of fatigue and pain in the injected arm. She is happy now that she can get back to work normally and go anywhere she wants.

"I don't worry anymore. I hope that the vaccine will have the highest effectiveness."

Awaiting his second shot early March, Nguyen Thanh Long, a technician working on a smart farm in Israel’s Beit She'an City, said he had mild ache in the arm for a day after the first shot.

Long also said he believed vaccination was the best way for a country to contain Covid-19 and open the economy up. He said there was a minority in Israel who have doubts about the vaccine. The government has asked vaccinated people to continue wearing masks to limit transmission risks.

Thanh Long received the first Covid-19 vaccine jab on February 16. Photo by Thanh Long.

Nguyen Thanh Long receives the first Covid-19 vaccine jab on February 16, 2021. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thanh Long.

Long and Lan felt that the small size of population was why Israel became the quickest country in carrying out vaccinations. A good relationship with the U.S. also helped Israel to speed up vaccine purchases, they felt.

Covid-19 positive after first jab

La Thi Hong Anh, a nail salon worker in Dubai, said she tested positive for the novel coronavirus after getting her first shot of the Sinopharm vaccine at the beginning of February. She had mild fever and had a negative result 10 days later. The second jab was administered several days ago.

"I will not have to take the Covid-19 test before traveling or quarantine anymore, which is good for me," she said.

Tina Do, another Vietnamese living in Dubai, also experienced some pain in the arm receiving the vaccine shots. The pain lasted three days.

Tina said she expected the vaccine can bring back normalcy if people remained vigilant, maintained prevention measures like wearing marks, washing hands and following social distancing rules.

Suffering no ache or fever after two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine at the end of January, Nguyen Hai Anh, a sales executive with a sugar company in Dubai, said he was living a normal life and had got an "E sign" from authorities, 28 days after the second jab. The E sign certifies that people have received two doses of the vaccine.

"I see no abnormal signs," he said, noting that UAE's leaders and billionaires have joined the vaccination program.

He attributed UAE's high ranking in the world vaccination plan to the country's early approval for China's vaccine and local airlines' capacity in vaccine transportation. The majority of people in the UAE welcome the Covid-19 vaccines, but he'd heard that people who registered late were finding it more and more difficult to get vaccinated.

Missing home

In Israel, Long expressed optimism that things can return to normal "in the short term," when the number of people getting vaccinated increases. As a result, Israel would do better in controlling the pandemic, leading to economic opportunities for citizens.

However, Lan said she was quite cautious about that prospect because there were still some groups of people who do not rigorously follow prevention measures.

Nga also said she felt individual awareness plays a crucial role in the collective effort to stop the pandemic from spreading.

"Unfortunately, we have not had a way to end Covid-19," she said.

Hong Anh in the UAE was more anxious, saying the country does not strictly quarantine people who test positive for the novel coronavirus. The possible reasons are that there is a high number of migrant workers and most people in UAE only suffer mild symptoms. Some stay at home, but some still go out and that makes her feel unsafe.

Hong Anh said she looks forward to returning to Vietnam.

Hai Anh concurred, saying the number of infections in the UAE keeps increasing because of "open activities," from malls to borders. Hospitals are only meant for severe cases.

He said he wants to return to Vietnam as he’d planned before Covid-19 and hoped that the Vietnamese government would repatriate its citizens soon.

"Vaccinated people should be given priority," he said.

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