Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has asked the Ministry of Health (MoH) to promptly make a plan to vaccinate children aged 5-11 against Covid-19, the Government’s Office said on December 8.
The request was made following a meeting between the PM and ministries and agencies on accelerating the development and transfer of production technology of Covid-19 vaccines and drugs last weekend.
At the meeting, PM Chinh tasked the MoH with thoroughly devising a vaccine procurement plan for next year. He also asked that contracts for securing vaccines for children be signed this month.
He also urged the health ministry to further speed up vaccination rollout nationwide as the country is set to complete the inoculation of adults (aged 18 and above) with two jabs by December 15.
A student in Hanoi receives a Covid-19 jab. Photo: Ha Linh
Deputy Minister of Health Do Xuan Tuyen said his ministry is seeking consultation from relevant agencies on vaccination for children aged 5 to 11, adding that the plan must be implemented based on vaccine safety, immunogenicity, and the recommendation of the vaccine manufacturers.
The MoH is holding negotiations with vaccine manufacturers and suppliers to secure vaccines for children of the age group, Tuyen said, affirming that Vietnam now has sufficient Covid-19 vaccine to inoculate people aged 18 and above, children of 12 to17 years old, and booster shots for adults.
The country aims to provide adults with booster shots before June 2022, with priority given to senior citizens aged 50 and older and frontline workers.
As of December 9, Vietnam has injected some 130 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, with over 55.5 million people, or more than half of the country’s population of roughly 100 million, receiving two shots.
In addition, about 5 million children aged 12 to 17 have been administered Covid-19 jabs. The country started to vaccinate children aged 12-17 in late October.
Amid public disputes over Covid-19 vaccinations for children, Director of the Vietnam National Children’s Hospital Tran Minh Dien told The Hanoi Times that screening test is needed to identify contraindications and prevent complications.
“Children should be vaccinated as part of efforts to reduce severe symptoms in the context that they are infected with the virus, especially in the group of children suffering from underlying diseases, such as cancer, kidney, and liver diseases. The vaccine will therefore help children with underlying illnesses reduce mortality rate as they are in the high-risk group,” Dien said.
He added that extensive vaccination of children over 12 years old will reduce the burden on the health service and lower the risk of new variants emerging, thus potentially reducing viral transmission.
The coronavirus has been constantly mutating with the emergence of new strains. In order to reduce the counts of Covid-19 deaths, besides the vaccine and prevention measures, antiretroviral drugs also play an important role.
The anti-viral drug Molnupiravir. Photo: The MoH
Vietnam has developed the 7th version of the Covid-19 treatment guidelines with many updates, and the Ministry of Health has also introduced many new drugs into the treatment.
Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son said that the anti-viral drug Molnupiravir has been distributed to localities over the past time to pilot a controlled program on management and care of asymptomatic Covid-19 patients at home and in the community. Around 250,000 doses have been administered in 34 provinces and cities so far.
“Regarding the effectiveness of Molnupiravir on Covid-19 patients in Vietnam, the results show that the drug is safe and well-accepted, and has obvious effectiveness in reducing viral load, virus spread, and the number of severe cases, as well as shortening treatment time,” Son said.
The Ministry of Health has also prepared a number of other drug options for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, including Favipiravir and Avigan. The ministry has allocated 2,000 doses of dual-antibody drugs to some localities to treat severe Covid-19 patients. Medical facilities will put the drug into use as soon as possible to improve treatment quality and reduce mortality.
“Studies around the world have shown that Molnupiravir helps halve the risk of hospitalization of Covid-19 patients. The oral drug is convenient and a good solution for large-scale treatment deployment in the community, significantly superior to current injectable drugs, keeping the disease from worsening,” Nguyen Viet Nhung, Director of the Central Lung Hospital told The Hanoi Times.
Thereby, Nhung has proposed to complete the drug approval process in Vietnam and use the drug for Covid-19 patients being treated at home.
A Covid-19 patient receives treatment in the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi. Photo: Ngoc Tu
Earlier, three pharmaceutical companies in Vietnam have been producing Molnupiravir pills to treat Covid-19 patients with mild or no symptoms, according to the Ministry of Health.
Of the three, the drug manufactured by Stellapharm Vietnam has been approved for a clinical trial. The three registration numbers are expected to be issued for three types of Molnupiravir drugs manufactured by domestic pharmaceutical companies.
Molnupiravir is developed by the US-based pharmaceutical companies Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck & Co., Inc.
Recently, the Institute of Chemistry under the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology has successfully researched and synthesized Nitazoxanide compounds to pilot apothecary of Covid-19 treatment drugs to treat patients in mild and moderate conditions.
Dr. Nguyen Van Tuyen, director of the Institute of Chemistry said that Nitazoxanide is a generic drug with low cost, oral use, safe, and suitable in Vietnam.
The Institute of Chemistry has also signed a contract to transfer technology to an enterprise and proposed to apply for a clinical trial of the low-cost drug Nitazoxanide to treat mild and moderate Covid-19 patients at home.
“Currently, around the world, 29 clinical trials have been carried out on Covid-19 patients, of which eight have ended and proved that Nitazoxanide can be safely used for early treatment of Covid-19 patients with mild and moderate conditions, reducing viral load and the number of patients hospitalized. Nitazoxanide has also been shown to be effective for the treatment of pregnant patients and for prophylaxis in healthcare professionals,” Tuyen told The Hanoi Times.
He stressed that the success of the Institute of Chemistry has contributed to the joint efforts of Vietnamese scientists in researching drugs, vaccines and biological products for the prevention and control of Covid-19.
Thereby, the Institute hopes that the Vietnamese Government will continue to create conditions and have policies to develop drugs to treat Covid-19 in particular and drugs produced domestically in general, Tuyen added.