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Vietnam to start COVID-19 vaccinations in March

Vietnam will begin its COVID-19 vaccination program next month with frontline healthcare staff and the elderly in line for the first doses as the country tackles a new wave of coronavirus infections, state media reported on Monday, February 22.

The Southeast Asian country expects to receive 60 million doses this year, including 30 million under the WHO-led COVAX scheme, with a first batch of 204,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive on February 28.

"The first wave of COVID-19 vaccinations, prioritizing frontline medical workers and high-risk groups, will begin in March right after the first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrives and passes quality checks," the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Refrigerators able to store vaccines at temperatures of -86 to -40 degrees Celsius (-122.8°F to -40°F) had been prepared in the country's 3 biggest cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Danang, the paper said.

The government said previously it was in talks with Russian and US vaccine manufacturers on potential supply agreements, while it expects a home-grown vaccine to be ready for domestic inoculation by May.

Vietnam's health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment its vaccination program.

Late last month, Vietnam approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use days after the country detected the first locally transmitted cases in nearly two months.

Thanks to targeted mass testing and strict quarantining, Vietnam managed to successfully contain the virus for months but a fresh outbreak has proved more difficult to stamp out.

The country of 98 million people has recorded 791 new cases since the latest outbreak started last month, or about a third of its overall caseload of 2,383 infections since cases were first detected a year ago. Vietnam has reported 35 deaths due to the virus. – Rappler.com