Vietnam makes haste to list priority groups for free Covid vaccination

By Nguyen Quy   April 6, 2021 | 04:00 am PT
Vietnam makes haste to list priority groups for free Covid vaccination
A medical staff in HCMC receives her first shot of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, March 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
All localities have been asked to quickly make lists of priority groups for free Covid-19 vaccinations because the AstraZeneca vaccine has a shelf-life of just six months.

The Health Ministry said the list must be submitted to the General Department of Preventive Medicine or regional Pasteur Institutes before April 15 so that the ministry can map out a detailed plan for distributing vaccine doses.

Vietnam's mass vaccination campaign began March 8 after a batch of 117,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine was delivered in February. So far, nearly 53,000 Vietnamese citizens, mainly frontline workers in the Covid-19 fight, have received their first vaccine shots.

The country also received another 811,200 doses of the vaccine last Thursday, its first batch of vaccines under the global Covax facility, under which it is expected to receive an additional 3.4 million doses in May.

The U.N. Resident Coordinator in Vietnam, Kamal Malhotra, said countries receiving Covax-funded AstraZeneca vaccine were facing a big challege about its expiry date. The vaccine produced by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca in collaboration with Oxford University is only valid for six months from the day of production.

When the vaccine doses are delivered to countries, there is not much time left before the expiry date, so they must be administered quickly, he said.

Besides medical staff and frontline workers against Covid-19, others in the priority list that have been approved by the government include teachers, diplomatic personnel, customs and immigration officers, those working in essential services like transport, people aged 65 and above, the poor and those with chronic diseases that make them more vulnerable to the disease caused by the virus.

People who are seeking to study or work abroad or are living in pandemic-hit areas are also on the priority list for Covid-19 vaccination.

Vietnam aims to secure around 150 million vaccine doses to cover 70 percent of its 98 million population this year. For this it has sought assistance from the EU, the U.S., Japan, China, India and Russia in accessing vaccine sources.

So far, Vietnam has approved AstraZeneca's ChAdOx1 vaccine and Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use.

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