HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam received 811,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines on Thursday, its first batch of vaccines under the global COVAX scheme, following a week-long delay caused by limited supply.
The Southeast Asian country, which began its coronavirus vaccination programme last month, is aiming to secure 30 million doses in total via the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility.
Thursday’s delivery took Vietnam’s number of AstraZeneca doses to nearly 930,000 so far, but the country is looking to diversify its procurement from more sources, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, China’s Sinovac and Russia’s vaccine, Sputnik V.
In a meeting with health minister Nguyen Thanh Long, Russia’s embassy in Hanoi on Wednesday offered to help Vietnam manufacture Sputnik V locally, the health ministry said in a statement.
Long also said Vietnam would approve the Chinese vaccine within weeks, after Sinovac submits the required documents. Vietnam is among only a few countries in Asia yet to use the Chinese vaccine.
Vietnam has been praised for its record in containing the virus through mass testing and tracing and strict quarantining, which has kept its cases to just 2,603, with 35 deaths. Nearly 50,000 people have been vaccinated.
Thursday’s shipment, originally of 1.37 million doses, was expected to be delivered by March 25 but was delayed due to supply shortages, according to the United Nations’ children’s fund, UNICEF, which is handling the COVAX rollout in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s first domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, called Nanocovax, is expected to be put into use in 2022.
Four Vietnamese companies are engaged in vaccine research and production and two are at the human trial stage.
(Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by James Pearson, Martin Petty)