|A resident in northern mountainous Điện Biên Province is vaccinated against COVID-19. VNA/VNS Photo Xuân Tư
Việt Nam is speeding up its vaccination drive – the top priority to fight the increasingly complicated COVID-19 pandemic.
As more and more people succumb to the virus, with hundreds of deaths recorded in the past week alone, inoculating as many citizens as possible has become the key task.
The country has so far received almost 18.7 million doses of vaccines and over 8 million had been been administered as of Friday.
Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính on Thursday called for more drastic and effective measures to curb infections, minimise deaths and push up the rate of vaccinations.
The Government leader stressed the need to speed up vaccinations by setting up more fixed and mobile vaccination stations and preparing vaccine storage areas.
He ordered authorities to ensure safety and effectiveness for vaccinated people, conduct immediate vaccinations for medical staff, frontline workers, the elderly, people with underlying conditions and those in the priority groups designated by the health ministry.
Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long earlier this week also urged localities nationwide to ramp up vaccination efforts and said Việt Nam expects to receive many more doses later this year.
“Vaccination drives must be rolled out as soon as possible,” Long said, adding that from October to December this year, Việt Nam could receive up to 47-50 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
HCM City has deployed 1,200 vaccination teams with each one capable of administering 200 COVID-19 shots each day. The city is still the COVID-19 epicentre with a caseload of more than 100,000 in the fourth wave .
Hà Nội is actively carrying out its massive vaccination campaign which started on July 28. The inoculation drive, lasts until April next year, targets 5.1 million residents between 18-65 years old.
Việt Nam is also boosting vaccine studies and production as global vaccine supplies are still limited.
Vingroup’s affiliate VinBioCare has received approval for clinical trial from the Ministry of Health to advance ARCT-154, a new generation Arcturus vaccine targeting SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, including the Delta variant.
Vingroup announced on Monday that it had signed an agreement with Arcturus Therapeutics medicines biotechnology company of the US to transfer vaccine production technology.
With a capacity to manufacture 200 million doses per year, Vingroup is projected to produce the first batches of vaccine by early 2022.
Under the agreement, the US firm will grant permission for Vingroup’s affiliate VinBioCare to produce COVID-19 vaccine named VBC-COV19-154, which targets new variants of the coronavirus such as Delta and Alpha.
The health ministry has asked HCM City-based biopharmaceutical company Nanogen, developer of the Vietnamese COVID-19 vaccine Nano Covax, to submit results of phase 2 and initial phase 3 trials to be reviewed for emergency approval.
Việt Nam will also soon license Remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment. Remdesivir was the first antiviral drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October, 2020. It has the ability to shorten treatment times and speed up recovery for critically ill patients. The drug has been approved and is authorised for use in approximately 50 countries worldwide.
Remdesivir is used for moderate and severe COVID-19 patients according to the guidelines in the treatment protocol of the Ministry of Health. The 500,000 vials are capable of supporting the treatment of between 80,000 to 100,000 COVID-19 patients.
As the trials have proved the made-in-Việt Nam vaccine to be safe and can elicit high level of [SARS-CoV-2] neutralising antibodies, it prompted southern Khánh Hòa and Bình Dương provinces to ask the Ministry of Health to allow them to participate in the trial phase of the vaccine. Bình Dương authorities proposed to vaccinate 200,000 workers in the province with the Nanocovax vaccine.
Quarantine for fully vaccinated arrivals cut to 7 days
Fully vaccinated arrivals to Việt Nam with negative COVID-19 tests will only have to undergo seven days of centralised quarantine and a further seven days isolation at home, according to a new instruction from the health ministry.
The reduced quarantine period – compared to previous 14 days of centralised quarantine and seven days of follow-up medical observation – is applicable to those having certified (by authorities of the home country) proof of negative RT-PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 72 hours prior to departure, be fully vaccinated with the last dose at least 14 days but no more than 12 months before the entry time (with vaccination certificates); or have in place of vaccination records, those having been infected with coronavirus (with documents proving the positive status using RT-PCR method no more than six months prior to the entry date), or proof showing they have recovered from the disease or hospital discharge or equivalent documents issued by authorities in the country where they have been treated.
All entries will have to be tested for COVID-19 on the first and the seventh day of the quarantine period (counting from the entry date). The first test could use either rapid antigen tests or RT-PCR tests, but the second test would have to be single-sample RT-PCR tests.
Medical worker supplies
The past week also witnessed hundreds of volunteer medical workers leaving for HCM City and southern localities to support their efforts in COVID-19 prevention and control.
The health ministry plans to set up more intensive care units in HCM City with the aim of minimising the rate of fatality.
More than 300 medical workers, including those skilled in intensive care, anaesthesia and surgery from Hà Nội-based Việt Đức Hospital, together with eight tonnes of medical equipment, arrived in HCM City on Thursday y to help set up an intensive care centre for severe and critical COVID-19 patients.
Aside from the centre managed by Việt Đức Hospital staff, HCM City will have three other field hospitals of this kind managed by staff from other central hospitals – Bạch Mai Hospital, Huế Central Hospital and HCM City Medical University’s Hospital.
More support for citizens and businesses
As the fourth wave of COVID-19 continues to escalate, affecting thousands of people and businesses, the Government and ministries and agencies are seeking all possible measures to help them overcome difficulties.
The Prime Minister has approved the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT)’s proposal to cut power bills for households for two months in provinces and cities applying social distancing.
Việt Nam's major telecom companies have announced a joint support package worth VNĐ10,000 billion (US$435 million) for consumers across the country. The package, which was rolled out on Thursday and end in November, will double the speed of internet cable services for all internet users. Telecom companies will also provide users with an additional 50 per cent of their cellular data at no additional cost while slashing by half the cost of the most popular data packages.
The Ministry of Finance is studying a tax and fee reduction and exemption package estimated to be worth around VNĐ20 trillion (US$897 million) to support citizens and enterprises affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hopefully, with these great efforts from the whole nation, the pandemic will be soon kept under control in Việt Nam. — VNS