Vietnam to receive first batch of vaccine under Covax next month

By Viet Anh   March 24, 2021 | 07:28 pm GMT+7
Over 811,000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered to Hanoi next month, a UNICEF official said Wednesday.

"We will receive the first tranche for Vietnam by the middle of April, and that will be 811,200 doses," said Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Vietnam. She said that the delivery was being made under Covax commitments.

The accurate date for the shipment will only be confirmed 24 hours before it arrives, she added.

By the end of May, UNICEF has been told to expect 4.1 million doses of the vaccine to come in, and then over the rest of the year, Vietnam will be able to vaccinate 20 percent of the population as promised.

She said earlier information that the first doses would arrive by the end of March was revised late Tuesday afternoon because of supply issues. This delay is not about the money for Covax, it's about how many vaccines are available for distribution, she said.

Covax, or the Global Covid-19 Vaccine Facility, is a global mechanism for the development, manufacture and procurement of Covid-19 vaccine candidates, facilitating and supporting member countries to access the vaccines as they become available.

On Tuesday, Professor Dang Duc Anh, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and program head, said 4.177 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine accessed via the Covax program would not reach Vietnam by April as planned due to limited supply. Around 33 million doses that Covax has pledged for Vietnam in the second half of this year may be delayed until next year, he said.

Flowers said there was a vaccine supply challenge at this time, because manufacturers cannot produce the vaccine quickly enough to meet the demand of all the countries. An increased production capacity will come online over the next few months, but even that is going a bit slower than the companies had predicted.

"Therefore, we are facing a delay at this time," Flowers said.

More shortages

UNICEF is also seeing a global shortage of syringes and cold chain items and refrigerators. These matters are being discussed by the U.N. agency and Vietnam, Flowers said.

In the near future, Covax is likely to look at procuring the Pfizer vaccine, as well as the one produced by Johnson & Johnson, recently added to the list. When these vaccines go into increased production, the supply will improve.

Regarding vaccine prices under Covax, Flowers said UNICEF has been able to negotiate with the manufacturers to buy the vaccine at a much cheaper rate than the market price that is being offered to countries. The prices vary between the vaccines. However, she did not have a clear and precise figure to cite.

"I can say the figure is much reduced. In some cases, it's much less than half (the market price)."

75 percent

Flowers emphasized that Vietnam needs to get 75 percent of the Vietnamese population vaccinated before opening the economy and allowing international travel. Vietnam and partners should help people understand the importance of getting vaccinated. It is not just to protect their health but also to ensure the economy can bounce back, she said.

As for infrastructure, UNICEF will support the Vietnamese government in buying additional fridges, freezers, refrigerated trucks to ship the vaccines, she said.

Vietnam is expected to acquire 150 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from foreign and domestic sources by 2022. Besides the deal with AstraZeneca, Vietnam is also stepping up negotiations with the U.S.'s Pfizer and Moderna, along with other vaccine manufacturers in Russia and China.

Vietnam began its mass vaccination campaign on March 8. So far, 36,082 medical staff and frontline workers in 16 localities have received the first shot of the vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca.

Though there has been one case of third-degree and five cases of second-degree anaphylaxis, all those vaccinated are now in stable condition, allowing the country to proceed with its inoculation program.

The health ministry expects Vietnam to start producing its own Covid-19 vaccine by the end of this year’s third quarter.

 
 
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