The Vietnamese health ministry has announced the decision to divert 110,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, originally meant for police and army personnel, to local centres for disease control (CDCs) instead.
A military officer receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot in Vinh Yen City, the northern province of Vinh Phuc.
These are among the 811,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that Vietnam received via COVAX Facility, the global COVID-19 vaccine sharing scheme, on April 1, adding to the 111,000 doses bought from the company that had been used in the first-phase of the inoculation drive.
Two weeks ago, the distribution plan in the second-phase of inoculation using COVAX doses was announced, but it has been revised.
Regarding the total 80,000 vaccine doses previously destined for the army, the army would now get 35,000 doses.
34,500 doses will go to 44 local CDCs – 15,400 for the northern region, 8,200 for the central region, 3,450 for the Central Highlands region, and 7,250 for the southern region.
10,650 doses will be supplemented to five southern provinces and cities in the southwestern border – An Giang (2,200), Tay Ninh (2,250), Kien Giang (2,200), Dong Thap (2,000) and Long An (2,000) – likely to protect frontline and essential workers and high-risks groups against the serious spike in coronavirus infections in neighbouring countries including Thailand and Cambodia.
The 30,000 doses previously intended for the police forces will instead go to 62 local CDCs (except for Hai Duong Province in the north, the epicentre of the country's third wave of infections lasting from late January until late March, which received 43,000 doses).
Provincial and municipal CDCs will report to their respective health department and coordinate with the provincial and municipal public security agencies to decide the number of public security personnel that would receive the jabs.
With this addition, Hanoi and HCM City, the two biggest urban centres in the country, still have been allocated the most doses.
49 provinces and cities out of the total 63 have received the doses in the second-phase distribution, and the remaining 14 would soon receive their share.
The doses provided by COVAX will expire by the end of the May, and the health minister is urging faster administration of vaccines for priority groups and localities must use all of their allocated doses by May 5 or the unused doses would be redistributed.
Eligible people for COVID-19 vaccine are those within the 10 priority groups detailed in the Government's Decree 21, which are frontline workers (medical workers, COVID-19 steering committees, police and military forces directly involved in the fight against the pandemic); Vietnamese diplomats and relatives sent on overseas missions and diplomatic delegations and UN representative offices in Vietnam; customs, exit and entry officers; essential service workers (utility, airlines, transport, tourism, etc.); teachers and education institution's staff or those working at front-facing administrative offices; people with chronic diseases; the elderly (above 65 years old); people in COVID-19-hit outbreak areas; poor people and social welfare beneficiaries; people authorised by the State to work or study overseas.
By Sunday, nearly 80,000 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Monday report from the National Expanded Programme on Immunisation. Five provinces in the north have already begun second-phase inoculation using COVAX vaccines.
Moderna import rumours
The health ministry has also addressed recent information of a private pharmaceutical group Vimedimex (based in Hanoi) requesting to import 50 million doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which has drawn public attention given the country's current limited supply.
Many businesses have officially notified the ministry that they have managed to make contact with parties that could supply COVID-19 vaccines – from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sputnik V, to Sinovac, Curevac, according to the health ministry.
To date, the health ministry has only approved AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines for emergency use.
So far, the ministry has only received Vimedimex's notification of its intent to look for Moderna vaccine suppliers to import into Vietnam, not the group's request for the Moderna vaccine to be approved for use.
In March, in response to warning from the Interpol regarding busted rings of COVID-19 vaccine scams, the health ministry has issued a notice warning organisations and companies to be careful when approached by parties offering supplies of vaccines.
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