Race for Covid-19 vaccine must start soon

Last week, my friend told me that his daughter, who is studying in the US, had just been vaccinated against Covid-19 just one day after returning in the US to attend college. 

Another friend of mine in England also told me that he had completed two injections against Covid-19.

The Sand the UK, after a period of turmoil, have vaccinated 45.25% and 51.84% of their population, respectively. As they hold the formula for producing anti-Covid-19 vaccines, they are among the countries with the highest proportion of population vaccinated and they plan to resume normal operations soon.

After Israel, which is country with the highest vaccination rate in the world, the success of countries such as the UK and the US promises many things to mankind. Many scientists have affirmed that vaccines are the most effective weapon, besides each person's immune system, to fight viruses. Even though new strains of virus are emerging more and more, threatening the effects of vaccines, vaccines are still the hope of the planet.

Sớm khởi động cuộc đua tìm vũ khí vắc-xin-1

A health care worker gives a Covid-19 vaccine to an American citizen. Photo: Reuters

In the context that Vietnam is entering the fourth wave, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's direction to "shift the status of epidemic prevention from defense to proactive attack" represents a new approach to epidemic prevention.

He explained: “Attack is about strengthening positive and proactive measures, strengthening technology measures, strengthening monitoring, checking measures, enhancing handle of specific cases, particularly the strict implementation of the 5K message plus vaccination."

The Prime Minister made special emphasis on vaccination, as the Resolution of the 13th Party Congress clearly stated: "Focus on controlling the Covid-19 pandemic, implement mass vaccination for the community."

By May 7, only 0.85% of the Vietnamese population had been vaccinated against Covid-19, compared to 2% in the Philippines, 2.3% in Thailand, 2.5% in Brunei, 2.5% in Laos, 4.7% in Malaysia, 7.6% in Indonesia, 16% in Cambodia and 39% in Singapore, although data on vaccination in these neighboring countries have not been updated as usual as Vietnam [1].

Sớm khởi động cuộc đua tìm vũ khí vắc-xin-2

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh inspects the prevention and control of the Covid-19 epidemic on the southwest border line in An Giang province. Photo VGP/Nhat Bac

For more than a year, Vietnam has been good at epidemic prevention through the implementation of various measures such as early closure of border, Covid-19 tracing, quarantine, and 5K message in order to restrict the closure of the economy. However, it seems that the country has not strongly joined the race to approach vaccines as the effective weapon against Covid-19.

Recently, the US administration supported the temporary waiver of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccine in the hope of helping poor countries to have more vaccines and speed up the process of ending the pandemic.

Commenting on this move, Deputy Director of the Department of Science, Technology and Training under the Ministry of Health, Nguyen Ngo Quang, told the local media: “If technology or intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccine production are openly transferred, Vietnam is fully capable of producing vaccines and has a great opportunity to take initiative in the sources of vaccines for itself and to share vaccine to other countries."

 

However, complex, safe and highly effective vaccines such as those of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech are difficult to produce by poor countries due to a lack of technology, production lines, experience and materials. Even when these vaccines are produced, the safety and effectiveness is not guaranteed.

China can massively produce two types of Covid-19 vaccines, but after several months, it produced only a few hundred million doses and vaccinated less than 13% of its population. To achieve community immunity at a rate of 70%, it will take China at least 18-24 months.

Even rich European countries, which do not lack resources for vaccine research and testing, do not have enough vaccines due to lack of supply.

Sớm khởi động cuộc đua tìm vũ khí vắc-xin-3

A health worker at the Central Hospital for Tropical Diseases is injected with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Photo: Pham Hai

Deputy Health Minister Tran Van Thuan said that in 2021 and early 2022, Vietnam is expected to have 38.9 million doses of Astra Zeneca provided by the COVAX program and 30 million doses of Astra Zeneca ordered by VNVC. The Ministry of Health is negotiating with Pfizer to have 31 million doses of vaccine by the end of 2021. Some countries and organizations have also confirmed that they will provide Vietnam with about 2 million doses.

In addition, to vaccinate 70% of the population, or about 70 million people, Vietnam needs to prepare for medical workers, vaccine delivery and storage, as well as databases to ensure there are enough vaccinations for the people.

This fourth outbreak is widespread and complex. There is still a very difficult road ahead on both the anti-epidemic and economic fronts.

This virus is unstoppable so it should be determined that the epidemic has entered the community and our society is no longer sterile.

Recognizing and acknowledging that perception, we will be able to harmonize the fight against epidemics and economic development because if we fight against the epidemic in an extreme way, the economy will be exhausted. Without that perception, it is likely that provinces will impose social distancing or even lockdowns when only dozens of infection cases are recorded. Without that perception, people will put the responsibility of anti-epidemic on the health system, doctors, nurses and the state in general, while they themselves do not change their way of working and living.

I strongly agree with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s instruction made at the recent meeting of the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control when he mentioned the lessons learned from the epidemic prevention campaign in Hai Duong in January 2021 and told provincial officials, when considering social distancing, they must ensure "as narrow as possible" scale to minimize adverse socio-economic impacts, and ensure the flow of goods, raw materials for production.

He even mentioned the case of Thai Binh province, which immediately imposed social distancing when there were only a few Covid-19 cases, and asked local authorities to consult with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam (Head of the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control) or the Minister of Health in necessary cases.

He suggested that provinces carefully review notice No. 82 that guides provinces and cities on how to implement social distancing and isolation according to their assigned authority and noted "Do not apply extreme measures".

People are looking forward to vaccines as soon as possible. The state has allowed organizations to import vaccines to vaccinate their own staff.

While waiting to have sufficient number of vaccines, the "non-extreme, very calm, wise" anti-epidemic measures can help mitigate losses on both the economic and epidemic prevention front.

The Ministry of Health has encouraged people to follow its 5K message in Vietnamese, namely Khau Trang (face mask), Khu khuan (Disinfection), Khoang cach (Distance). Khong tap trung (No gathering), and Khai bao y te (Health declaration).

Tu Giang

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

Another road for Covid-19 vaccines

Another road for Covid-19 vaccines

Western nations have the capacity in terms of economic potential and the legal and moral aspects to promote access to vaccines on a global scale.

Vaccine nationalism

Vaccine nationalism

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