HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam’s health ministry called for the acceleration of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Friday as the expiry date of the Southeast Asian country’s first batch of jabs supplied through the COVAX scheme fast approaches.
Since it began its vaccination programme last month, Vietnam has inoculated around 73,000 people despite receiving nearly one million AstraZeneca doses, 800,000 of which were obtained via the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme.
“The (AstraZeneca) COVID-19 vaccine has a shelf life of 6 months but the batch delivered to Vietnam on April 1 under the COVAX scheme only has two months left till expiration,” the ministry said in a statement on Friday.
“We have to speed up the inoculation. It is not acceptable that a single dose of the vaccine is thrown out because of a failure in the rollout,” the statement added.
The health ministry requested all 19 localities which have started vaccine programmes to finish no later than May 5, 26 days before the vaccines expire.
Vietnam has been praised globally for its record containing the virus through targeted mass testing and a strict, centralised quarantine programme.
The country has kept its tally of cases to 2,800, and reported only 35 deaths since the pandemic began. Authorities are aiming to immunise 70% of Vietnam’s population and are seeking to obtain a total of 150 million vaccine doses through direct purchases and via COVAX.
The health ministry said Vietnam had carried out its vaccination campaign at a higher safety level than the World Health Organization’s recommendation but that safety should not be the reason for a slow vaccine rollout.
The ministry did not immediately respond to emailed questions from Reuters regarding the slow progress of the programme.
Four Vietnamese companies are engaged in vaccine research and production, two of which are at the human trial stage.
(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Additional reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by James Pearson)