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Vietnam’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plans Come Into Focus

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Sponsored by Vietnam Holding. Photo Credit: Michael Tatarski

Vietnam’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plans Come Into Focus

While the Vietnamese government’s response to the pandemic has been among the most effective in the world over the last year (see below), their strategy regarding an eventual vaccination campaign is now becoming clear. The Prime Minister has now requested vaccinations to commence.

As recently as mid-January, it wasn’t clear when the country would receive any vaccine doses.

Then, a huge outbreak hit the small northern province of Hai Duong, with cases eventually recorded in over a dozen cities and provinces, including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Leadership has responded by dramatically speeding up the vaccine delivery timeline, and also the scale of their purchases. However, for now, there is no indication of how this vaccination drive will impact ongoing inbound flight restrictions. 

On the morning February 24, 117,600 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine arrived on a Korean Air flight from Seoul at Tan Son Nhat Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

These doses are part of the government’s agreement to buy 30 million doses from AstraZeneca, an agreement announced weeks ago with what was then a vague timeline.

Now, the Ministry of Health is saying that 150 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines will reach Vietnam in seven batches either by the end of this year or early 2022.

Initial timelines estimate that another 1.5 million AZ doses will arrive by the second quarter; 1.2 million through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program and 363,000 purchased directly from AZ. Remaining frontline workers (500,000 people) will receive these doses, along with diplomats (4,080 people), customs and immigration officers (9,200 people) and just over 1 million members of the military.

8.2 million more AZ doses will be purchased and delivered within Q2, covering remaining military personnel, public security police officers (304,000 people), teachers (550,000 people), and people over 80 years old.

In Q3, 10.9 million AZ doses are expected, 3.6 million from COVAX and 7.32 million directly from AZ. These will be for anyone else over 80, essential service providers, and people with chronic diseases.

Through early 2022, 14.4 million more AZ doses will be distributed for remaining people with chronic illnesses.

By the end of this year or early next year, COVAX will supply 25.2 million doses intended for the chronically sick who haven’t already been vaccinated and people aged 65-80.

The remaining 90.5 million vaccine doses will come from to-be-determined foreign and domestic vaccine producers through the first half of 2022 for the rest of the 65-80 population and people over the age of 18 not covered by previous batches.

That last batch is the most uncertain, as local media has simply said that the government is still in talks with Pfizer and other foreign vaccine companies, as well as Russia for the Sputnik vaccine – though we do know that two Vietnamese companies expect to have functioning vaccines sometime this year.

If all of this goes to plan, that would mean 75 million out of 97 million people in Vietnam would be vaccinated by the middle of 2022. 

The big question for people outside of Vietnam is how all of this will impact international flight restrictions, and on that there is still no clarity. It’s clear at this point that the Vietnamese government will be exceedingly cautious in reopening the border, and even with this good vaccine news, hopeful foreign visitors shouldn’t expect major changes anytime soon.

There is increasing interest in Vietnam particularly with increased political risk in other parts of ASEAN (Thailand and Myanmar). Vietnam has shown its mettle during the pandemic year, which was also the year in which it successfully chaired ASEAN, hosted several foreign leaders and inked several key trade agreements. The short term risk in 2021 was the spread of new Covid variants, which Vietnam so far has evidenced a strong grip on. If Vietnam’s vaccine rollout can be successfully implemented, then 2021 could well be a breakthrough year for Vietnam.

Let’s remind ourselves how Vietnam became the Pandemic Winner:

One. Fight Ambivalance

In early 2020, the UK Government was quoted as saying the Coranavirus thrives on ambivalence, which unfortunately was in abundance in the more supposedly ‘developed’ markets. The leadership in the UK was distracted at the end of January by ‘getting Brexit done’, and according to UK media, even during the weeks that followed, its Prime Minister was unable to attend key Cobra meetings where the virus was being discussed.

Vietnam’s government, on the other hand, took quick and resolute action during the largest national holiday in the year – the Lunar New Year ‘Tet’ holiday – in late January. Vietnam has rightly won many new admirers for how its policymakers acted, and the country has emerged from the pandemic with a high level of credibility.

Two. Have a common enemy

Vietnam’s leaders at the national and provincial level, and the people in the urban and rural community, had a clear common sense of purpose: defeat the coronavirus. This meant being willing to sacrifice some liberties, and to adopt measures such as mask-wearing when there were (and bizarrely, remain today) detractors in the ‘western world’ to the use of face-coverings. The use of propaganda art, in conjunction with traditional media and social media (including TikTok) focused the communities on fighting the unseen enemy and defeating it fairly resolutely.

Three. Rally around a common cause

The UK had a few rallying points during its battle with the early phases of the Coronavirus. One was the indefatigable (and now deceased) Captain Sir Tom Moore who chose to mark his 100th birthday by walking round-and-round-the-garden to raise money for the National Health Service, raising 33 million pounds more than his target. The NHS also featured in a regular collective gathering of ‘clapping’, an idea – like quarantine itself – imported from Italy.

Vietnam’s rallying point was rather more unusual. A 43-year-old Motherwell supporter who flew a plane to Vietnam for Vietnam Airlines, and brought more than passengers with him. He inadvertently caused a cluster of infections in a popular bar in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2. He became very sick, and his lungs became like sacks of cement, putting him at death’s door, and with a real chance of being Vietnam’s only Covid-19 fatality. He spent close to 100 days in an ICU, much of it in a coma, where he received excellent healthcare. Known as ‘Patient 91’ the Vietnamese population rallied to his support, with several people even offering to be lung-donors to save the life of the British pilot. Thankfully he made a full recovery and is now safely back in Scotland. He said that he would have died anywhere other than Vietnam. 

Vietnam kept its track record of zero deaths for several months, with long periods without any community-spread cases. Even now, a year on, Vietnam has recorded less than 40 deaths from the Coronavirus. It has also managed to keep its economy open for most of the year, as a result enjoying the highest growth rate in the world for 2020.

Vietnam Holding held a webinar on 26th February hosted by its investment manager Dynam Capital, outlining its vision for the next five year trends in the growth market of Vietnam. The Webinar recording is at https://vimeo.com/518007876#t=9s

Hear more from Vietnam Holding at the UK Investor conference on 23rdMarch.

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