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COVID-19 to be considered an endemic disease in Vietnam

Given the emergence of various COVID-19 variants globally, including Omicron, many experts believe that achieving the goal of herd immunity to eradicate the disease is difficult, and COVID-19 may be approaching the endemic disease stage.

COVID-10 no longer global health emergency

WHO experts agree COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency. (Photo: Internet)

WHO experts agree COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency. (Photo: Internet)
 

 

Herd immunity is widely viewed as a lifeline to end the pandemic in the long run. Humankind has at least once achieved herd immunity, with smallpox being eradicated thanks to vaccine development. However, in the case of COVID-19, experts are of the opinion that herd immunity is unlikely as the pandemic is entering its third year.

Dr. Anna Blakney of the University of British Columbia in Canada admitted that despite certain gains, it was still hard to even consider achieving the herd immunity target due to the constant emergence of mutation of the virus.

Theoretically, the pandemic can be considered over when experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 is no longer classified as a global health emergency. Despite this, the criteria for making this decision has yet to be precisely defined.

While waiting for the WHO to come to a conclusion, politicians and public health experts in countries which boast high vaccination coverage are promoting a new approach to COVID-19, with many regarding the disease as part of life.

For example, Thai health authorities hold the view that the COVID-19 outbreak has basically been brought control and the disease is now not too serious, especially when people have received full vaccine doses. They are therefore working toward declaring COVID-19 as an endemic disease according to their own set of criteria, as opposed to waiting for the disease to naturally become endemic as it may take longer.

COVID-19 an endemic disease in Vietnam?

Locally, many health experts share the same view, considering COVID-19 to be an endemic disease.

Dr Tran Van Phuc of St. Paul Hospital in Hanoi agrees that the country should change its viewpoint on COVID-19 in a bid to avoid a health crisis in the future.

“If we keep getting stuck in the so-called COVID-19 pandemic trap, we will face a health crisis due to a serious shortage of test kits and human resources, given the context that the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly,” said Dr Phuc.

He therefore suggested that Vietnam view COVID-19 as a respiratory disease, similar to respiratory diseases caused by other viruses. He also put forward the idea that hospitals set up specific COVID-19 departments, or at least a unit in charge of COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Nguyen Lan Hieu, director of Hanoi Medical University Hospital, supported this proposal, saying it is time to treat COVID-19 like other endemic diseases. “By doing so, we can calmly live with COVID-19 and actively open the door for socio-economic activities as seen in the pre-pandemic period,” the health professional noted.

Nevertheless, several other experts have made a more conservative assessment with regard to this new approach.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tran Dac Phu, senior advisor to the Ministry of Health, pointed out that in order to regard COVID-19 as an endemic disease, the number of cases must remain stable. Indeed, new infections continue to rise every day and the outbreak remains unpredictable.

Furthermore, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Van Dung, Dean of the Public Health Faculty of Ho Chi Minh City - based University of Medicine and Pharmacy, warned that considering COVID-19 as a common disease at this time will have negative impacts. The health professional believes that one of those consequences could potentially be local people showing apathy toward the disease, and it is increasingly difficult to stamp out if the disease breaks out again.

Prevention measures in place

Students in Ho Chi Minh City strictly follow the Health Ministry's 5K practice, including wearing face masks and washing hands with sanitizer, before entering the classroom.

Students in Ho Chi Minh City strictly follow the Health Ministry's 5K practice, including wearing face masks and washing hands with sanitizer, before entering the classroom.
 


Life has been plunged into chaos since COVID-19 first broke out more than two years ago. The Vietnamese Government has adopted flexible pandemic prevention and control measures in an attempt to contain the disease and has since opened up socio-economic activities. In a recent Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh asked the Ministry of Health to evaluate the situation regarding herd immunity and study the international experience toward considering COVID-19 as an endemic disease.

Even in the event that COVID-19 becomes an endemic disease, it does not mean that it is no longer dangerous. Some people are still at risk of dying from the virus. Experts therefore recommend that people continue to maintain basic prevention measures such as wearing masks or regularly washing their hands with sanitizer.

Source: VOV

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