|A worker at a company in Đình Trám industrial park, Việt Yên District, in the northern province of Bắc Giang, is given the AstraZeneca vaccine on May 27. The province is suffering from the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the country during the latest wave of infections since April 27. — . VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam
HÀ NỘI — All possible measures must be taken and all obstacles must be cleared to quickly secure COVID-19 vaccines, said Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam, who heads the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control.
According to a report presented by the Ministry of Health at the meeting held on Monday, towards the goal of reaching herd immunity in Việt Nam by the end of 2021 (inoculation of 75 per cent of the population would require some 150 million vaccine shots), the ministry has worked drastically on the mission in the past months via meetings and negotiations with vaccine producers, as well as health units and diplomatic representatives of countries that produce the vaccines.
Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long reaffirmed that the target of importing 150 million doses of vaccines this year would be possible.
He also encouraged all localities and businesses to work together to import vaccines.
Currently, Việt Nam has 27 companies that have the function of importing and trading vaccines. The Ministry of Health has to date approved AstraZeneca and Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use and is reviewing applications for use of two other vaccines.
The health minister said that if the applications have all the required data and documents then the review process should only take 48 hours.
Acknowledging such efforts, Đam noted vaccines that have been licensed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), even if their manufacturers have yet to apply for a licence in Việt Nam, could still be imported. For the vaccines that have yet to get a licence from WHO but having been licensed for use by other countries’ regulators, the ministry would immediately licence these vaccines when a local company could access them, he said.
Long said that if the application for a licence is valid, the licence could be granted within five days.
The meeting also discussed the wish of many businesses and associations who donated to Việt Nam’s COVID-19 fund so their employees and sector workers get the priority in the vaccination queue. Officials said that in the long-term, there would be free vaccines under the National Expanded Programme for Immunisation by the health ministry in addition to paid inoculation for those who can afford it, however, under the current circumstances, when all international organisations ask that countries observe fair access, it would be quite difficult to satisfy everyone’s demands, even though the businesses’ requests were quite reasonable.
“Some businesses have donated money that equals the cost of hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses and they only want some hundreds of doses for their own workers, that would not be reasonable if this request is rejected,” a health official remarked.
The Deputy PM stated that "Việt Nam always adheres to the UN’s principle of fair vaccine access [to priority groups]," but could accommodate "reasonable requests" from businesses and commerce associations, as there are many workers who face high risks of exposure to the virus given the enclosed space they work in and the regular contact they have with other people.
In the latest outbreaks involving industrial zones' cluster of infections in Bắc Giang and Bắc Ninh, the Government has decided to vaccinate workers at the outbreak-hit areas to ensure economic activities are not disrupted.
Đam requested the Ministry of Health urgently issue a circular guiding the registration for circulation in urgent cases for COVID-19 vaccines with simplified procedures, ensuring that all capable businesses are guided and provided with the best conditions.
In the future, the Ministry of Health would continue to introduce policies to encourage more localities and businesses to participate in the nation’s search for COVID-19 vaccines, Long said, adding that it would create the best conditions possible for all localities, units and businesses in vaccine importing, licensing and testing processes.
The health ministry was asked to prepare for large-scale inoculation efforts when a large amount of vaccine that Việt Nam has ordered or was set to receive from COVAX would arrive. — VNS