Vietnam's Covid-19 vaccine roll-out 'too slow' in many areas, says Health Minister

Vietnam has only fully vaccinated 700,000 people, or less than 1 per cent of its population. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HANOI (REUTERS) - Vietnam's Covid-19 vaccination drive has been too slow in many areas, state media quoted the Health Minister as saying on Tuesday (Aug 3), as the South-east Asian nation battles its worst coronavirus outbreak yet.

Vietnam successfully contained the coronavirus for most of last year, but an outbreak driven by the Delta variant, infecting more than 160,000 people since late April, has increased pressure on the authorities for a faster vaccination roll-out.

"Vaccination is now a priority and urgent task for localities," Mr Nguyen Thanh Long was quoted as saying by the Vietnam News Agency.

Data from the Health Ministry showed Vietnam has fully vaccinated only 700,000 people, or less than 1 per cent of the country's 98 million people, since it launched a roll-out in early March.

Seven million vaccine doses have been administered, however, though this accounted for only 42.5 per cent of the vaccine received so far, the data showed.

The ministry of health on Tuesday reported 8,429 new infections, up from 7,455 cases on Monday, and raising the country's caseload to 170,190 overall.

The wave of infections has forced around a third of Vietnam's cities and provinces to impose strict restrictions on movement, including in the epicentre Ho Chi Minh City and capital Hanoi.

The government last week said it would accelerate its vaccination campaign in Ho Chi Minh City, adding that "the city is switching its focus to treatment to limit the number of deaths".

The country's Covid-19 death toll reached 2,071 on Tuesday, according to the Health Ministry. More than 95 per cent of the deaths were recorded in the past month.

Vietnam, which concentrated most of its resources on contact tracing and quarantining in the earlier outbreaks, is set to approve the use of Gilead Sciences' antiviral drug remdesivir for the treatment of patients who have contracted the coronavirus, state media reported on Tuesday.

The country is due to receive 500,000 remdesivir vials soon and is also considering approving favipiravir, a drug which has also been shown to be effective in countering Covid-19, the Health Ministry said in an earlier statement.

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