A resident in Hà Nội's Thanh Xuân District gets a COVID-19 vaccine shot on September 13. — VNA/VNS Photo Minh Quyết
Trần Đắc Phu, a senior advisor at the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre talks to the Government Portal and Quân đội nhân dân (People’s Army) online newspaper about efforts to seek COVID-19 vaccine supply sources to achieve herd immunity
How many doses of vaccines has Việt Nam received and is it possible for the country to achieve herd immunity by the end of the year?
Việt Nam has so far received more than 34 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from different sources, from the COVAX mechanism, bilateral donations and purchase by the Vietnam Vaccine Joint Stock Company (VNVC).
As of September 11, Việt Nam administered more than 27 million doses of vaccines with nearly 2.5 million people being fully injected with two shots. It means the rate of people vaccinated remains low in comparison with the target of herd immunity.
The Ministry of Health projects that Việt Nam will have around 90 million doses of vaccines (excluding vaccines from the COVAX mechanism, which were committed without specific delivery plans due to vaccine shortage). An estimated of 20 million doses of vaccines will arrive in September.
The health ministry has proposed localities launch campaigns to vaccinate citizens in the coming months with the target of having at least one million people nationwide being vaccinated each day in order to fulfil the herd immunity plan.
If the amount of vaccines arrive in Việt Nam is as projected, it is possible for the country to fulfil the target of herd immunity when 70 per cent of the population getting two full jabs.
Should those people who were vaccinated with two full shots of COVID-19 vaccines or fully recovered from COVID-19 be relaxed from travelling restrictions? Which localities should pilot that relaxation?
At present, Việt Nam still has a low rate of vaccination while the risk remains high. So we should have regulations to allow those people who got two full doses of vaccine to travel and work in order to fulfil the dual goals of economic recovery and pandemic prevention. It will also help encourage other people to get vaccinated.
As the rate of people getting two full doses of vaccines is lower than other countries so the relaxation should only be piloted in some areas that have high rate of vaccination such as Hà Nội, HCM City, Bình Dương, Đồng Nai and Long An. They can pilot the relaxation plan with some specific conditions such as how could these people travel within certain areas and how could they prevent COVID-19 infection when travelling to areas with low vaccination rate as there are still risks for those people who fully vaccinated to be infected with COVID-19 virus.
The ministry is guiding agencies to draw up regulations to allow those getting two full jabs to travel and join different activities to help develop the economy while preventing the pandemic.
What are the prospects of our own, homegrown vaccines?
At present, there are two potential vaccines, including Nano Covax developed by the HCM City-based Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biotechnology JSC which is in the phase 3b clinical trial and is expected for completion in the fourth quarter.
Another is the Covivac vaccine which is researched and produced by the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (IVAC). This vaccine is in the second phase of clinical trials and is expected to enter the third phase of trials in December this year. Particularly, the vaccine is developed basing on the technology that is also used to produce seasonal flu vaccines in Việt Nam. And IVAC already succeeded in producing seasonal flu vaccines and other kinds of vaccines for children.
However, vaccine production requires safety and efficiency which needs time for production and clinical trials.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is forecast to last long and maybe become a normal flu, urging people to be vaccinated annually so it is important to produce homegrown vaccines to help the country be proactive in pandemic prevention and control and ensure domestic vaccine security.
Vaccine is considered key to the recovery of the economy but the supply of vaccines is limited at present. What should be done to soon have enough vaccines to vaccinate residents to help Việt Nam achieve the herd immunity?
The Government has actively and resolutely given direction in seeking sources of vaccine supply, particularly vaccine diplomacy, by setting up the Government working group on vaccine diplomacy headed by Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn to promote and mobilise donations of vaccines and COVID-19 treatment drugs and medical materials and equipment, and transfer of vaccine and medicine production technology from bilateral and multilateral partners.
More vaccines will arrive in the coming months while homegrown vaccines also have prospects, urging localities to prepare plans and be ready to inoculate people as soon as we have vaccines in order to ensure vaccine effectiveness.
Four months passed since the fourth outbreak of COVID-19 started in Việt Nam with the number of new COVID-19 patients and fatalities remaining high. Do you have any recommendations for localities and people to help reduce the number of new cases and deaths?
It depends on each locality because the outbreak is different among regions and localities. Each locality should depend not only on the situation of the COVID-19 but also on the life, economic development and social security of people to have appropriate measures, from social distancing to lockdown and treatment to minimise deaths. But COVID-19 prevention and control should be still the top priority.
Amid the complicated development of the COVID-19, vaccination and testing must ensure safety. All vaccines licensed for use in Việt Nam ensure safety and effectiveness and have been used in many countries. People should get vaccines when vaccines are ready because “the best vaccine is the one that one they can get the soonest”.
Vaccinating protects your health and your family members’ health and it also shows your responsibility towards the community. — VNS