Vietnam will receive the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines sourced via COVAX, containing 811,200 doses, in early April, according to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE).
"This batch would be stored at NIHE and then distributed by the Ministry of Health," said Professor Dang Duc Anh, director of NIHE.
Global vaccine access mechanism COVAX planned to supply Vietnam with 1.37 million Covid-19 vaccine doses produced by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca on March 25. However, only 811,200 doses were made available in the first batch due to thin supply.
Chief representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Vietnam Rana Flowers said COVAX still guarantees the provision of over four million vaccine doses to Vietnam by the end of May despite supply shortage.
The accurate date for the shipment will only be confirmed 24 hours before it arrives, she added.
A medical worker in Hanoi receives her first Covid-19 vaccine shot on March 8. Photo: Ngoc Tu
Flowers said there was a vaccine supply challenge at this time because manufacturers cannot produce the vaccine quickly enough to meet the demand of all the countries. An increased production capacity will come online over the next few months, but even that is going a bit slower than the companies had predicted.
Regarding vaccine prices under COVAX, Flowers said UNICEF is able to negotiate with the manufacturers to buy the vaccine at prices much cheaper than ones in the market that is being offered to countries. The prices vary between the vaccines. However, she did not have a clear and precise figure to cite.
"I can say the figure is much reduced. In some cases, it's much less than half [the market price]," said Flowers.
By the end of May, UNICEF expected 4.1 million doses of the vaccine to arrive, and then, for the rest of the year, Vietnam will be able to vaccinate 20% of the population as promised.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
Vietnam has so far received about 117,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses for its mass Covid-19 inoculation program from 30 million doses ordered from the producer. It expects to receive 60 million doses in total this year from multiple sources, though the plan may be partially delayed into 2022.
The country seeks to secure 150 million Covid-19 vaccine doses this year to cover 70% of its population. It expects to start producing its own Covid-19 vaccine by the end of this year’s third quarter, according to the health ministry.
Vietnam began its mass vaccination campaign on March 8. So far, over 46,000 medical staff and frontline workers in 16 localities have received the first shot of the vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca.