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HCM City reports on purchase and use of 5 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine

HCM City’s health department has issued official responses to the health ministry’s request for clarification of its deal for and use of the donation of five million doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.

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The People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City has assigned the Saigon Pharmaceutical Company Limited (Sapharco) to negotiate and sign contracts to buy 5 million doses of Sinopharm vaccines. The city asked the Ministry of Health’s permission to share vaccines with other provinces in an appropriate form.

Previously, the Ministry of Health asked Ho Chi Minh City to clarify the introduction of Sapharco to negotiate and buy Sinopharm vaccine and its proposal that the Ministry of Health sign a commitment to exempt the vaccine manufacturer from liability.

The People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City cited dispatch No. 3988/VPCP-KGVX dated June 15, 2021 of the Government Office, in which Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam agreed with the proposal of the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City on the purchase and import of vaccines.

On that basis, the city assigned Sapharco to negotiate and sign contracts to buy the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm. Sapharco is a 100% state-owned enterprise and one of 36 firms with the function of importing vaccines as announced by the Ministry of Health.

Ho Chi Minh City asked the Ministry of Health to consider signing a commitment to exempt the vaccine manufacturer from liability at the request of Sapharco and the representative office of China National Pharmaceutical Foreign Trade Corporation in Hanoi, same as for all other shipments of Covid-19 vaccines that Vietnam has imported so far.

Regarding the use of 5 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine, the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City said that the vaccine was donated to the city by a corporation. Amid the complicated situation of the epidemic in many localities and the scarce supply of vaccines, HCM City proposed that the Ministry of Health allow the vaccines to be shared with some provinces and cities in an appropriate form to serve people in a timely manner.

As for the funding for the purchase of Sinopharm vaccines and related costs, HCM City said that the sponsor had covered the entire expenses. Regarding the responsibility related to the costs incurred under the commitment to disclaimer of liability of the manufacturer, HCM City said that the seller will be responsible for the costs of storage and transportation before and upon delivery of the vaccine to the buyer.

The buyer (Sapharco) is responsible for the costs incurred for the delivery of vaccines, shipping, insurance, and vaccine preservation. In case the vaccines are recalled due to quality violations, the seller is responsible for the expenses incurred.

Sapharco is responsible for providing the contract and details of payment costs related to the purchase, transportation and import of the 5 million doses of Sinopharm vaccines to the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City and the Ministry of Health upon request.

The People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City has assigned the Department of Health to develop a plan on vaccine allocation, and to receive, store, transport, distribute and administer the vaccines in accordance with regulations and professional guidance of the Ministry of Health.

The first shipment of one million doses arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCM City on July 31 but the city has not yet rolled out the Chinese vaccines pending quality controls, vice chairman of HCM City’s People Committee Duong Duc told a press briefing on August 3. The administration of the vaccines would be free and on a voluntary basis, he added.

Vietnam to date relies mostly on Western vaccines – AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – in its vaccination drive, and there have been some public concerns and pronounced hesitancy against the Chinese vaccine, despite the fact that WHO and Vietnamese health authorities have approved Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use.

Two days after the press briefing in HCM City, Hai Phong’s People’s Committee on August 5 officially requested the health ministry and HCM City to borrow 500,000 doses to give to priority groups including long-distance drivers and workers in China-invested companies and other volunteers as the allocation to the northeastern city so far has not matched its needs. The move is interpreted as Hai Phong is willing to take the Chinese vaccines off HCM City’s hands if they are not used, and likely prompted the health ministry’s request for clarification on HCM City’s part.

Ngoc Trang

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