COVID-19 Update from Healthcare Provider Subcommittee Chair Dr. Mason Cobb and Andrew Meadows
Updated on June 12, 2021
Updated on Jun 6, 2021
Vietnam’s fourth wave COVID-19 outbreak continues, mostly in northern Bac Giang and Bac Ninh provinces, with 8,682 cases and 53 deaths, 5562 cases and 18 deaths since April 27th. Vietnamese Government focus on vaccines has increased as it negotiates new commercial deals, seeks bilateral donations, and elicits private sector support, both through contributions to a government vaccine fund, and potentially through more direct private sector purchases
The good news is most new cases are occurring in areas that are already quarantined, and the government has made vaccines available to workers in some hard-hit industrial parks, designated as an additional priority group. Fifteen provinces, including Da Nang, have gone more than 14 days with no new cases reported.
And, with increased urgency, Vietnam has gotten secured more vaccines, with reportedly 120 million doses now in the pipeline for delivery by the end of the year, out of the 150 million targeted to achieve 70 percent of the population vaccinated for herd immunity. That figure includes 39 million doses of AstraZeneca through the COVAX program and 30 million through commercial purchases, as well as 31 million doses of Pfizer-BioNtech, and a new purchase of 20 million doses of Sputnik V. In addition, Japan announced a planned donation of 1 million doses (of Pfizer or Moderna) and the United States designated Vietnam a priority country in its first tranche of global vaccine sharing (amount TBD out of 7 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines for a group of SA and SEA countries). The government is also actively negotiating with Moderna and J&J and just approved SinoPharm’s vaccine for emergency use. Its own indigenous NanoCovax, now in Phase 3 trials, may be available by year’s end.
In the meantime, the outbreak has disrupted our lives as well as the economy and some supply chains. At least 15 healthcare facilities have closed because of unrecognized F0 cases, demonstrating the difficulty of recognizing cases proactively. HCMC is essentially locked down, with most service businesses closed. International travel, or even between our cities here, is limited.
The Vietnamese government continues to modify policies as it seeks to balance health and safety with economic costs. Airports in Hanoi and HCMC were reopened to international travel days after it was banned. The PM has discouraged overly strict policies by some provinces. And Vietnam is again considering reducing the quarantine time for vaccinated individuals from 21 days to one week.
We support the Government’s strict COVID control and social distancing measures, but recognize they can take a toll on your mental and physical health as you try to work from home and juggle additional responsibilities. We will be offering additional guidance as part of a new AmCham Wellness Initiative that will kick off with June 12 Global Wellness Day. Meanwhile, do your best to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise. Be well!
Super informative COVID event! Thanks to all who joined live! If you missed, it’s not too late to get informative insights from expert panelists at a May 26th multi-chamber virtual event on the COVID-19 Virus, Variants, and Vaccines: WHO’s Dr. Kidong Park; UNICEF’s Rana Flowers; OCRU’s Professor Guy Thwaites; AZ’s Nitin Kapoor; and KPMG’s Luke Treloar. More about the event and speakers at the LINK.
If you are an AmCham Vietnam member and are interested in viewing a recording of the event, please contact us @ [email protected] to obtain a password.
If you are not yet an AmCham Vietnam member, the recorded video clip is available at VND 200,000. Please contact us @ [email protected] to purchase.
The 4th Covid-19 wave is still spreading, now with all major cities and provinces affected, a new variant, and no end in sight. New social distancing directives go into effect in HCMC on May 31st. Vaccine availability is eagerly awaited, to return to a safe and predictable life to commence.
The current Covid-19 wave is the topic of every conversation. It is now in 34 cities and provinces with almost 3900 cases nation-wide and 12 deaths. Two major hospitals in Hanoi are closed to new Covid-19 patients, as they are so overloaded from the massive wave in the North.
There are 108 confirmed cases in HCMC, most linked to a religious group. As the government relentlessly tracks the cases and contacts, there are tens of thousands in quarantine. But with so many clusters with no initial case known, this wave has a “Whac-A-Mole” feel, as more clusters appear or continue, even with the intense tracking. Although some experts predict an end to this wave by the end of June, it has not begun to stabilize yet.
Because of the seemingly random cluster outbreaks, the disease seems always to be lurking, not far away. The government has been sensitive to the human toll of this worst wave. Initially, the citizenry was not directly locked down, although those over 60 years-old were advised to stay at home. Starting Monday, May 31, social distancing measures go into effect for HCMC, with stricter measures for residents of Go Vap and Thanh Loc.
Businesses are suffering damage from such recurrent disruptions, with many going out of business or losing leases. Without a vaccine, these outbreaks will continue with control through the same effective but disruptive measures currently used. Such outbreaks will only end when a large share of those living in Vietnam can be vaccinated.
As PM Minh Chinh has so wisely said, “We are all in this together.” The key to controlling the pandemic – worldwide as well as in Vietnam – is for the masses of people to become immune through vaccination. Businesses would find it futile to be the only ones vaccinated – it will take most of the entire population.
In the meantime, the government has been very specific about closures and exposures, and we must all follow this plan, as we, indeed, are all in this together.
The current outbreak has brought a sense of urgency for controlling the rapid spread and has highlighted the need for prompt, widespread vaccination. For the most authoritative up-to-date information, we encourage you to join a special multi-chamber virtual event on Wednesday, May 26th from 4:00-5:30 PM with a panel of experts:
The latest outbreak’s seeming randomness and wide distribution (30 cities) has heightened concerns, especially with 99 percent of the population lacking the protection of a vaccine.
The facts are that it is spreading rapidly, although still mostly contained to the North, including Hanoi. There have been a few cases in HCMC, with eight local areas locked down. There are said to be 60,000 quarantined or confined, nationally. The total count of those infected since April 27th is approaching 2000, with six deaths to date. Also of concern is the prevalence of the Indian variant, which may be much more transmissible.
As always, the government has reacted swiftly and with a long reach. So far, the virus has not penetrated deeply throughout the country and a general lock-down has not been imposed. However, the government is very concerned and the HCMC Department of Health is working overtime with all healthcare facilities (two of which have discovered cases and are locked down) to assure prompt and effective response. The government is taking additional preventative measures to facilitate elections on Sunday, May 23rd and to enable reopening of industrial parks in the North and continuity of operations in the South to maintain global supply chains.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh continues to make resources readily available for rapid acquisition and deployment of the vaccine. Last Sunday, a new shipment of almost 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived under the COVAX program. The government has announced plans to purchase 31 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the second half of the year.
At the G20 Global Health Summit in Rome on May 21, world leaders and pharmaceutical company leaders also made commitments to boost supplies of vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
The country and everyone who lives here awaits the vaccine. Many private-sector organizations have expressed willingness to support Government efforts when more vaccine is available, both companies offering to fund costs of vaccines for their employees, and private hospitals and clinics offering to support distribution.
Meanwhile, some expats are preparing to include vaccinations in plans for travel back home in coming months, despite the current requirement on arrival back in Vietnam for a 22-night stay in a quarantine facility, followed by a 7-day home quarantine, regardless of vaccination status.
Game changer: Vietnam to secure 110 million vaccine doses. According to news reports, Vietnam will receive a total of 110 million doses from three different sources this year, including 31 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine. A shipment of 1.7 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine is scheduled to arrive Sunday. LINK to read more.
The lack of vaccines has been the missing link in Vietnam’s world-class control of COVID-19. With new variants and outbreaks throughout the region just across porous land borders, the COVID situation in Vietnam could become deadly for a vulnerable, largely unvaccinated population.
Details on delivery of the vaccines to Vietnam are not yet known. Distribution to the population is also a question mark. There are various proposals for how to distribute. Some would include private sector partners, either healthcare organizations or businesses directly. At this point, decisions are in the hands of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Health officials who are acutely aware of the need to rapidly roll out the vaccines.
The Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca vaccines are in the pipeline. Each requires two doses, 2-3 weeks apart. During the rapid vaccinating period in the UK, first doses were prioritized, with delays of months for second doses. Fortunately, a single dose is about 65% effective, and importantly, makes death and serious illness extremely unlikely.
The risks of anaphylaxis and blood clots are likewise very unlikely and certainly much less risky than contracting the disease itself.
Priorities for the queue are frontline healthcare workers, case trackers, other frontline workers such as airport and quarantine workers, military, police, and teachers. Only then, elderly and chronically ill people would receive vaccines. It could be a long line.
Less than 1,000,000 Vietnamese have been vaccinated to date. Vietnam is also applying for rights to produce mRNA Vaccines indigenously. VN’s NanoCovax vaccine may be ready by 2022. So, plans are being made to further enhance vaccine availability.
Without a vaccinated population, nonpharmacologic means of control (testing, contact tracing, quarantining, use of masks, and social distancing) continue to be necessary. Vietnam is a model for this, but even in Vietnam, complacency is seen as a contributing factor to the current outbreak. A “new normal” remains far in the distance with a mostly unvaccinated population.
In the meantime, Viet Nam continues to see new COVID-19 cases every day, with 165 on Saturday alone, and now more than 1,000 since the latest outbreak began on April 27. Fortunately, these have remained contained in 26 locations and nearly all recent new cases are among those already quarantined.
Unfortunately, Vietnam also experienced a COVID-related fatality on Saturday, an 89-year old woman, with multiple pre-existing conditions. This was Vietnam’s first COVID-related fatality in over eight months and 36th total, out of about 4000 total cases to date since the pandemic began. There are nearly 60,000 people quarantined, with the quarantine period extended to 21 days in a supervised facility, then another 7 days of home quarantine.
At this point, stay safe in all the ways that we have become accustomed to – and don’t let down your guard.
If you are a U.S. citizen, register for the STEP program at travel.state.gov to receive updates on health and security information from the U.S. Consulate.
AmCham Covid Policy Update/Event Level Rating
AmCham Vietnam places a high priority on promoting health and safety. We value Vietnam’s vigilant response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and strive to support the Vietnamese government in its continuous efforts to prevent and control its spread. Thus, we have created a four-level event rating system that allows us to adapt and respond appropriately as the pandemic progresses, and to ensure that our members and friends can make informed decisions about which events they choose to join.