Vietnam has launched its largest-ever vaccination campaign, with more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to be injected.
Vaccinations began on March 8 at the Ho Chi Minh City Hospital for Tropical Diseases and the Hanoi-based National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, and also in northern Hai Duong province, where the third coronavirus outbreak in the country struck in late January.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) said that with 117,600 doses in the first batch delivered in late February, this first phase was the beginning of the largest vaccination campaign in the country’s history.
Up to 100 million doses are to be administered to people nationwide. Citizens aged 18 or above will receive two shots with an interval of 12 weeks.
The Vietnamese Government has invested substantially in and mobilised considerable resources for its massive drive to fight COVID-19 and protect people’s health.
The first phase of vaccination prioritises those working on the frontlines, who have had constant contact with the coronavirus. They include medical professionals treating COVID-19 patients, workers performing contact tracing and testing, those working at quarantine sites, anti-COVID-19 teams in the community, members of all-level steering committees for pandemic prevention and control, and police and military personnel.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is being used in Vietnam’s campaign, which is one of the three vaccines approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and been authorised in more than 50 countries and territories.
During the vaccination process, the MoH will send delegations to join local authorities in examining and monitoring the activity and readying equipment for the timely settlement of any arising problems. It has also requested localities seriously administer the vaccine to priority groups, ensure safe vaccinations, and guarantee fair access.
On March 8, 100 doctors and nurses directly caring for COVID-19 patients at the HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases were among the first to receive the vaccine shots, on March 8.
Dr Du Le Thanh Xuan, who cared for Patient 91 – the British pilot who had been known wide and far as the most critical COVID-19 patient in Vietnam and his miraculous recovery – expressed her honour at receiving the vaccine in the first phase, saying she hopes all people will be quickly vaccinated so that life can go back to normal.
Xuan and her colleagues at the hospital directly provided treatment to Patient 91 for more than two months before he was transferred to Cho Ray Hospital for further treatment.
He was the most severe case of infection in Vietnam at the time and underwent 115 days of treatment at the two hospitals. His treatment proved successful, as he did not require an anticipated lung transplant and once in good health returned to the UK, on July 11 last year. Dr Nguyen Thanh Phong, head of the D infection disease department head at the HCM City Hospital for Tropical Diseases, said Vietnam has found success in containing COVID-19 but the pandemic remains a complex issue around the world. Therefore, these first vaccine doses have helped ease pressure on frontline medical workers. Echoing that view, hospital director Nguyen Van Vinh Chau said vaccines provide healthcare workers with the “armour” they need to stay protected from the virus.
In Hanoi, meanwhile, more than 7,200 people are expected to receive COVID-19 vaccine shots in the first phase. At a meeting of the city’s steering committee for COVID-19 prevention and control on March 8, Vice Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Chu Xuan Dung demanded that local authorities ensure equality, transparency, safety, and effectiveness and that the vaccine be given to priority groups.
Deputy Director of the Hanoi Centre for Disease Control (Hanoi CDC), Truong Quang Viet, said health workers at Branch No 2 of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Dong Anh district received their first shots on March 8, while those at the Thanh Nhan Hospital began to receive shots on March 9.
As one of the first to be inoculated against COVID-19, Dr Le Van Xuan at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases said vaccination will help to better control the disease in the community. He also called on people to continue anti-disease measures and not lower their guard. Meanwhile, Hai Duong province, scene of the latest resurgence of the virus, has been allocated the largest number of doses in the country during this phase – 33,000. As of the morning of March 11, Vietnam had recorded 1,588 cases of community transmission, including 895 since January 27, when the latest outbreak began.
Dr Truong Van Thao, Director of the healthcare centre in the provincial capital Hai Duong city, said relevant parties have made plans and geared up the necessary conditions for safe vaccinations. As these are the first shots, they are doing their utmost to ensure absolute safety, he noted, adding that emergency rooms, equipment, doctors, and technicians are prepared for any irregularities. Do Nhu Hoa, deputy head of the healthcare centre in the province’s Kim Thanh district, was one of the first 130 people in Hai Duong to receive a jab. Voicing her confidence in the campaign, she said she feels like she has been given a “suit of armour” to take part in the COVID-19 fight, especially as Kim Thanh district is still working hard to tackle the outbreak.
Deputy Minister of Health Tran Van Thuan said that based on the number of doses acquired, Vietnam will carry out the campaign step-by-step and try to expand coverage to all people in targeted groups during 2021 and 2022. For foreigners in Vietnam, relevant agencies will hold discussions with ambassadors of countries to establish vaccination plans, he added. The 11 priority groups in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination plan consist of healthcare workers; those who have joined the COVID-19 fight; diplomats and customs and immigration officers; military personnel; public security forces; teachers; people over 65 years of age; providers of essential goods; people with chronic diseases; those who must work or study abroad; and residents in pandemic-hit areas.
To facilitate vaccinations, the MoH and the Viettel Military Industry and Telecoms Group developed an electronic health record app for smartphones, at http://hssk.kcb.vn, to create the conditions for people to access vaccination information and minimise administrative procedures.
Via this app, people can easily follow their COVID-19 immunisation schedule and provide feedback on their health condition and any post-injection reactions./.