UNICEF Representative: Viet Nam builds strong immunization system against COVID-19
VGP - History will record that Viet Nam was able to implement the vaccination campaign and has quickly achieved a high vaccination rates, said UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam Rana Flowers in her interview with the VGP.
What are your assessments on the Vietnamese Government’s efforts in raising the vaccination coverage in the country?
Ms Rana Flowers: Viet Nam has now implemented the largest-scale vaccination campaign ever attempted-and it has been very successful-reaching the target population of those above 12 years against COVID-19.
Think back just over a year–where Viet Nam was struggling to secure an adequate supply of vaccines due to global vaccine constraints and shortages.
The Government was strategic–it used multiple channels and strategies to ensure vaccine supply, COVAX was a game changer in the early days-but the efforts to employ vaccine diplomacy-reaching out and mobilizing international vaccine supply and injection equipment was very strategic.
Viet Nam has already built a strong immunization system-vaccinating children and adults in a safe and efficient manner and with the COVID 19 vaccines that system stood up to the test of massive volume, urgent deliver, safe storage and delivery of the vaccines to the waiting arms of the people of Viet Nam.
There is no doubt in my mind, that COVAX, that the many donors of vaccine to Viet Nam chose to give to the people of Viet Nam because they were taking the virus seriously, and the delivery of the vaccines was efficient and safe.
History will record that Viet Nam was able to implement the campaign and has quickly achieved a high vaccination rates.
The coverage of second dose COVID-19 vaccine for target population over 18 years old stands at 95 percent and for adolescense aged from 12-17 is 94 percent. This is very high.
I applaud and pay deep respect to all the health workers. This percentage shows that most of the target population in all regions, including disadvantaged areas, have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Viet Nam has not been spared suffering and hardship because of the pandemic, and my condolences are extended to all those who lost a loved one, but there is no question that with such high vaccination coverage. Viet Nam has made very positive achievements in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.
How important it is for Viet Nam to vaccinate children aged from 5-11 against COVID-19 in this context in Viet Nam?
Ms Rana Flowers: As we come to the end of the current wave–there is absolutely no guarantee that there will not be another wave, no guarantee that it will be less serious.
As COVID-19 remains with us, vaccines are still our best bet to reduce the mortality and impact of the disease. And the impact can have long term consequences. The parents I speak to want to ensure their children suffer as little as possible and they want to protect from long covid, where children suffer heart or lung consequences.
Considering Viet Nam’s high coverage among the highly prioritized population over 12 years, this is a strategic decision that is in line with the internationally recommended roadmap for prioritizing the use of COVID-19 vaccines.
After a period of preparation and planning, Viet Nam is now also vaccinating children aged 5-11 years old against COVID-19 in all provinces. I just want to encourage more parents to take advantage of that to ensure that the children are protected.
The Vietnamese Government has set the target that all the adolescences aged 12-17 will receive the second shot in April while the vaccination against COVID-19 for children aged 5-11 will be completed in the second quarter of this year. Meanwhile, the Government considers administering the fourth shot of COVID-19 vaccine for high-risk group? What are your assessments on the country’s vaccination plan?
Ms Rana Flowers: Certainly, in all matters COVID-19, we encourage Viet Nam to follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization on COVID-19 vaccination schedules for each category of target population.
We are learning to live with COVID-19 but COVID-19 is not going away yet. And those who are on the front line who are more vulnerable because of other health conditions-they need to ensure that they receive the vaccine when it is offered.
With the largest vaccination campaign in history, Viet Nam has been able to mobilize an all of Government response to participate, to mobilise support from the entire population, international organizations, and other governments.
The immunization systems are equipped with knowledgeable health staff and immunization officials, and strong logistic and cold chain systems. The implementation of COVID-19 vaccination and the country’s remarkable results are valuable lessons learnt not only for Viet Nam but also for other countries with similar conditions.
How other countries are rolling out vaccination for children and people with underlying diseases against COVID-19?
Ms Rana Flowers: Each country has its own strategy and action plan to deploy the COVID-19 vaccines in accordance with its capabilities and situations. Viet Nam was well prepared–it had assessed the cold chain–it knew where it needed extra fridges or additional capacity.
Not all countries were so prepared. And not all countries have a population who stood together with solidarity and helped protect each other. In other countries, for children, the roll out of vaccines has gone very safely and well.
Many countries have undertaken the vaccinations at the schools. Parents are key–they need to be calm and approach this as they would any vaccination. If the parent is anxious–it passes to the children–and that is where we see mass-hysteria events.
For the elderly or people with underlying conditions, the picture is more mixed. In some countries, those groups were not prioritized soon enough, those in facilities were not reached and there were too many deaths as a result.
In other countries, the vaccines went only to those who could afford to pay, and this is wrong. Vaccines are a public good so everyone should have equal access.
Could you brief about UNICEF's plan to assist Viet Nam in the COVID-19 fight in the upcoming time?
Ms Rana Flowers: UNICEF had joined hands with the Government of Viet Nam in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic from the very beginning. I recall over Tet festival–the education, health and communication teams getting the materials ready for what we suspected lay ahead.
UNICEF is already the biggest supplier of vaccines so we stepped into the role to support COVAX, to deliver vaccines, to assess cold chain and bring in syringes, safety boxes, fridges and freezers, storage and transport equipment to deploy immunizations.
Many other medical equipment and supplies for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 are also supported through UNICEF. In addition to supporting vaccines and medical supplies, UNICEF also supports organizing mobile vaccination teams in disadvantaged areas to bring vaccines closer to the people.
We shared information openly and transparently to make sure it is in sign language, in ethnic languages and we mobilized to change behaviors to ensure an uptake of vaccines, especially in disadvantaged areas.
UNICEF will continue to support Viet Nam to ensure ongoing supply of vaccines and vaccination equipment along with other medical equipment and nutritional supplies.
But we also ensure that we mobilize and respond actively to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 in many areas, ranging from catching up education, support to nutrition of children, getting children back to receive the ongoing vaccinations that they have not been able to get because of the pandemic lockdown.
Overall, as support continues across of all the areas and we look forward to this period when we hope to see less of the pandemic and much more of life building back better and improving the lives of children./.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about COVID-19, visit https://www.unicef.org/vietnam/covid-19
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/vietnam