|A COVID-19 vaccine shot is being prepared for administration. — VNA/VNS Photo Văn Dũng
HÀ NỘI — The health ministry said it is collecting feedback from ministries to develop the medical response to COVID-19 scenarios in the 2022-23 period.
There are two scenarios for COVID-19 in the future that the ministry is preparing for, both with a focus on vaccination as a key way to keep the infectious disease under control.
In the first scenario, the coronavirus continues to mutate but thanks to herd immunity, severe cases and deaths are trending down and outbreaks are not as serious as before, or the dominant strain of the virus is not causing serious illnesses.
In this scenario, the health ministry will focus on reviewing the need for a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the adult population and third dose in children aged 5-18 years, as well as quickly rolling out vaccinations to children 3-5 years old within 2022.
Health authorities will also step up the surveillance and genetic sequencing of COVID-19 cases to discover the emergence of variants of concerns (VOC), especially their ability to cause severe diseases, their transmissibility, and the effectiveness of the intervention measures. SARS-CoV-2 testing on animals – including domestic pets and wild animals – will also need to be expanded, the health ministry noted.
The outbreak level assessment will also need to be adjusted depending on the situation to facilitate socio-economic development efforts.
The second scenario is where a new strain/variant of the coronavirus emerges, one that is capable of evading vaccines’ protectiveness or humans’ immunity, leading to an increase in severe cases and deaths, especially among the clinically vulnerable populations.
The health ministry will closely coordinate with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and vaccine manufacturers around the world to get updates on new vaccines that are capable of dealing with new variants of SARS-CoV-2 and report to the Government on the procurement plans.
Administration of COVID-19 vaccines will be continued to ensure the fastest progress possible, especially booster doses for high-risk groups (people over 65 years old, people with chronic diseases) or those who have received the last dose of vaccines in the primary course (two doses typically) three months or more ago.
At the same time, authorities will closely monitor the pandemic situation around the world and in the country, strengthen surveillance of the ‘arrival’ of new variants of the coronavirus via border gates and border areas, continue monitoring for early detection of cases in the community, focusing attention on monitoring hospitalised COVID-19 cases, cases requiring intensive care, and deaths.
There is also a need to improve the capacity of the health system, especially preventive medicine and grassroots healthcare; put in place appropriate remuneration policies for healthcare workers – especially at local levels.
More medical examination and treatment activities will be available virtually according to regulations to increase the rate of access to medical services for people with COVID-19 and those who cannot access medical examination and treatment facilities due to COVID-19.
In this scenario, the principles of ‘prevention – detection – quarantine/isolation – zoning – and outbreak elimination’ will be carried out at the smallest scale possible depending on the outbreak situation, while the COVID-19 formula “5K + vaccines, medications + treatment + technology + public awareness + other measures” will be flexibly applied. The 5K stands for the five public health measures used to combat COVID-19 in Việt Nam for the last two years: Khẩu trang (face mask) – Khử khuẩn (disinfection) – Khoảng cách (distance) – Không tụ tập (no gathering) – Khai báo y tế (health declaration).
The health ministry said that after two years, many variants of coronavirus had appeared, but currently, the new infections, hospitalisations, and deaths were dropping consistently, while vaccination coverage went up.
Many ASEAN countries have started to issue a set of criteria that if met, COVID-19 could be seen as an ‘endemic disease.’
For example, Indonesia will consider COVID-19 an endemic disease if less than 5 per cent of the COVID-19 cases require hospitalisation, and the positive rate in the population stays below 1 per cent.
Thailand is also mulling viewing COVID-19 as endemic from July 1, 2022, if the fatality rate does not exceed 0.1 per cent (the current rate is around 0.2 per cent), and with this, requirements like testing and masks will be dropped for the public – except for COVID-19 positive cases.
The country has dropped most COVID-19 curbs, except for public masking.
Currently, over 96 per cent of the population aged 12 and above in Việt Nam have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the rollout of vaccines for children aged 5 to under 12 underway. Daily cases and deaths continued to drop significantly. — VNS