Preference for non-subsidized vaccine injects chaos in Da Nang

By Nguyen Dong   March 30, 2019 | 12:11 am PT
Preference for non-subsidized vaccine injects chaos in Da Nang
People line up in front of the Da Nang Center for Disease Control for their children's vaccination on March 28, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Tan Viet
Pandemonium ensued at a Da Nang health center when parents were asked to return home without getting their kids vaccinated.

Well before daybreak, Thursday, Tan Viet got to the Da Nang Center for Disease Control.

He was not alone. Many other city residents as well as those from the nearby provinces of Quang Nam and Quang Ngai were also waiting for their turn to collect numbered tokens for getting the 6-in-1 vaccine shot for their kids.

The 6-in-one vaccine shot is for protection against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type B and polio.

Apart from those present at the center, there were others who had signed up for their shots online even earlier.

"When I came here at 3 a.m., there were already around 300 others waiting for their turn. Many had slept on mats right on the sidewalk," Viet said.

When the center’s gates opened at 6 a.m., more than 200 had had their numbers in hand. What followed was sheer chaos, with parents climbing the fences to get inside and take new tickets for themselves.

In the end, however, there was simply not enough vaccine for everybody. With only 180 shots left out of the 500 reserved for the day, people with tickets numbers 181 and above were asked to leave, said Ton That Thanh, director of the center. The parents, of course, had taken a lot of trouble to get to the center and were not willing to budge. Police had to be called to the scene to restore order.

At 8 a.m., the center announced that it would cease all vaccinations for the morning. People who had already signed up for their shots online or had tickets numbered up to 180 could return in the afternoon, the center said.

The rest of the parents would have to wait for the next batch of vaccines to arrive, at which point the center would contact them by phone, it added.

Thursday’s scenes of chaos are not uncommon at the center each time it runs out of 6-in-1 vaccines, said Thanh.

"We were caught offguard a bit this morning, so we weren’t able to deal with the situation this time," he added.

The center’s supply of vaccine is reliant on how the Drug Administration of Vietnam (DAV) distributes vaccines imported from foreign countries.

The government first places requests for the number of doses with companies making the vaccine, and the DAV distributes these to provinces and cities based on their vaccination schedules.

However, this does not mean that each city and province can get the exact number of doses they wanted, Thanh explained.

"Sometimes we register for thousands of shots beforehand, but if the supplier gives us only 100 shots, there’s nothing we can do," he said.

Vaccine shortage, specifically of doses-on-demand, is a recurring problem that the Ministry of Health has yet to deal with properly, said Nguyen Tien Hong, deputy director of Da Nang’s Department of Health.

One reason for it is some people’s misconception that vaccination-on-demand is "better than government subsidized vaccination."

"Government subsidized vaccinations are preplanned, maintain surplus stocks to tide over shortages and have clear schedules [...] Parents should bring their children to such medical institutions instead of rushing for vaccination-on-demand, which could make their children miss their proper vaccination schedule," he said.

The Da Nang center should also devise a plan to develop its own vaccine supply and communicate better with people, he added.

"Right now, the center only announces the number of vaccine shots it has, not the number of people who have already registered for their shots online or the number of shots left available. That’s why it could not handle the situation when too many people arrived," he said.

Vietnam already has the ComBE Five vaccine imported from India, which was put to use since last December. The vaccine protects against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B. In Da Nang, 3,200 shots have been given within the first quarter this year with zero adverse effect. 5 million shots are given to about 1.7 Vietnamese children every year.

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