Third phase of vaccination campaign to begin with new COVAX shipment

Update: May, 14/2021 - 16:30


A nurse prepares an AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot in Cà Mau Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Kim Há

HÀ NỘI — Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long has asked agencies and localities nationwide to immediately make plans to carry out the third phase of COVID-19 vaccination on a greater scale compared to previous phases.

The health official on Thursday announced that 1.682 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Việt Nam on Sunday, supplied by the COVAX Facility via the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The new batch will be used in the third phase, with the second phase using 800,000 doses also from COVAX which arrived on April 1, and the first phase using the 117,000 doses bought from AstraZeneca via the Việt Nam Vaccine Company (VNVC) which arrived in late February.

As of Thursday, 959,182 doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered to target priority groups, which are primarily frontline workers, medical staff, and members of COVID-19 steering committees, since the country started its COVID-19 vaccination drive on March 8.

The second phase of the drive is expected to wrap up by Saturday, as the health minister has told localities that unused doses by May 15 would be redistributed because the COVAX-supplied vials will expire by the end of this month.

Dr Dương Thị Hồng, Deputy Director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said the Expanded Programme on Immunisation will continue to hold training on COVID-19 vaccination for medical staff, especially pre-vaccination screening and response to post-injection reactions, to ensure safe inoculation.

Localities should also pay attention to preventing the spread of COVID-19 at vaccination sites, Hồng said, adding that priority groups must get the booster shot as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Prof. Dr Phan Trọng Lân, head of the HCM City Pasteur Institute, underlined the significance of COVID-19 vaccinations amid the complex pandemic situation in the region and the world with more than 3 million deaths so far.

The vaccine will be critical to allow the country to escape the risk of a complete lockdown, Lân said said.

Health minister Long said the Ministry of Health has negotiated with many countries, organisations and vaccine producers, resulting in 110 million doses of vaccines promised for Việt Nam, including 31 million doses from COVAX Facility, 30 million as commercial purchase from AstraZeneca, and likely another 31 million from Pfizer/BioNTech.

The ministry has registered with COVAX to buy an additional 10 million doses under the cost-sharing mechanism, he added.

Long said the ministry is still working with other suppliers to diversify sources of supplies, including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik V and Sinovac.

In addition to homegrown COVID-19 vaccines that are in clinical trials, the country is looking to obtain approval from the WHO for the transfer of mRNA technology, which Pfizer and Moderna both use, so that it could produce other vaccines domestically. — VNS