Vietnam’s Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long told state media Thursday that the majority of the one million COVID-19 vaccines donated to the country by Japan this week would be used in the three epicenters of the country’s fourth wave of the deadly virus.
Vietnam has been among the most effective countries in tackling COVID-19, reporting no deaths among its 95 million people through late July 2020—a record that was attributed to effective contact tracing, strict quarantines, and early testing.
Since then, four separate waves of the virus swept over the country, leaving a trail of 11,794 confirmed cases and 61 deaths.
Since the beginning of the fourth wave in late April, the northern province of Bac Giang has recorded 5,007 cases, while nearby Bac Ninh province confirmed 1,454, and the southern economic hub Ho Chi Minh City reported 1,197.
The minister said Ho Chi Minh City would get 800,000 doses of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccines donated by Japan, with vaccination starting this week.
Vietnam is the first ASEAN country to receive vaccines donated by Japan and the fifth shipment for Vietnam through the COVAX program and individual country donations. It remains the only country in ASEAN to have not used Chinese vaccines.
China has donated 100 million doses to other countries in the region, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on June 8.
Hoang Viet, a lecturer from the Ho Chi Minh City Law University told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that although China has announced it would be donating vaccines to many different countries, Vietnam was not among them.
“The first possibility is that the relationship between Vietnam and China is no longer as warm as before. The second possibility is that China may require some conditions for receiving donations or purchasing vaccines but Vietnam did not accept them,” Hoang said.
He also said that the Vietnamese government may have taken into consideration its people’s objection to the use of Chinese vaccines.
“When the government talked about the possibility of buying Chinese vaccines, many people protested, creating pressure and making the government very cautious,” he said.
Carl Thayer a professor at the University of New South Wales told RFA, “The Vietnamese government presently is casting a wide net seeking vaccine supplies from a variety of countries.
Among the vaccines in use in Vietnam are Russia’s Sputnik V and the U.S.’ Moderna vaccine. Additionally, Vietnam recently gave emergency approval for Pfizer vaccine made in Belgium and Germany.
“China does not appear to be on Vietnam’s list due to anticipated widespread public reaction against Chinese vaccine,” Thayer said.
In a related development, Mr. Lam Minh Thanh, chairman of the southern province of Kien Giang’s People’s Committee said that the province planned to ask the central government to provide COVID-19 vaccines to all of 170,000 residents on Phu Quoc island so that the popular tourist destination could welcome visitors again from September or October 2021.
A police officer in the northern coastal province of Nghe An who works in an ID-issuing office had contact with 6,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 according to a report in Ho Chi Minh City’s Public Security Newspaper.
The officer, called patient BN11634 in the report, worked at the photography and fingerprinting section of the Dien Chau district police. He had been on a busy business and travel schedule before being confirmed positive for COVID-19.
His positive test caused Dien Chau and nearby Vinh city to completely close down Thursday.
A person who had contact with BN11634, a public servant at the Dien Chau People’s Committee tested positive by mid-day Thursday.
The report said it was not clear if the officer could be prosecuted for spreading the virus or not. A 22-year-old woman was Monday prosecuted on charges of spreading COVID-19.
According to the investigation into the woman’s case, she met with an infected person but did not reveal this to authorities.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, Head of the Propaganda and Education Department under the Nghe An Provincial Party Committee, denied that patient BN11634 had close contact with over 6,000 people.
“Responsible agencies in Dien Chau district have traced/examined the case and confirmed 103 contacts, and 6,000 related people of which many have had close contact with the patient”, said Huong.
The Tuoi Tre online newspaper quoted Huong as saying that most of the related people were local residents who had come to the headquarters of Dien Chau People’s Committee to apply for a new ID.
However, Huong did not specify how those, who had close contact with patient BN11634, should be categorized.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.