Vietnam to Use 500,000 Donated Chinese Vaccines in Northern Provinces

Domestic vaccine’s approval delayed on lack of scientific data.

Vietnam to Use 500,000 Donated Chinese Vaccines in Northern Provinces

Vietnam will administer coronavirus vaccines manufactured in China to people in the country’s nine northern provinces, becoming the final ASEAN country to accept vaccines from its northern neighbor, local media reported.

The country of 95 million people has administered about 2.4 million doses of vaccines, but only 121,683 people are fully vaccinated, or about 0.13 percent of the population.

In an RFA report published last week, experts said that the Vietnamese government had appeared reluctant to accept Chinese vaccines because of a lack of trust in them by the Vietnamese people, or because relations between Beijing and Hanoi could be slightly on the rocks.

But the VietnamNet online newspaper reported Wednesday that the Ministry of Health would administer 500,000 China-donated Sinopharm doses in the provinces of Lao Cai, Lang Son, Quang Ninh, Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, Dien Bien, Cao Bang, Lai Chau and Ha Giang.

The biggest recipient would be Quang Ninh in the coastal northeast bordering China, with 230,000 doses, while coastal Thai Binh, two provinces to the south of Quang Ninh, would receive only 1,400 doses.

According to VietnamNet, the three groups prioritized to receive the vaccines first are local residents who live in the communes near the borders shared with China, those who need to carry out exchange activities or do business with China and Chinese people working and living in the provinces.

Also Wednesday, the Ministry of Health sent an urgent dispatch to Ho Chi Minh City and the nine provinces of Nam Dinh, Cao Bang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Dak Lak, Tien Giang, Lam Dong, Can Tho and Kien Giang, urging them to speed up their vaccination against the coronavirus.

To date, the vaccination rate in Ho Chi Minh and the second group of nine provinces is lower than 40 percent. Ho Chi Minh received two batches of vaccine, 74,500 doses in late May and 796,370 doses in mid-June.

Vietnam’s Vaccine Fund has raised nearly 7 trillion dong (about U.S. $300 million) to buy and administer vaccines, according to the fund’s management board.

Luu Hoang, deputy director of the board, told Vietnam News Agency (VNA) that 2 trillion dong would be used to buy vaccines in July under health ministry instructions. The remaining amount will be deposited in commercial banks.

Possible vaccine deaths

On Tuesday the Hanoi Center for Disease Control (Hanoi CDC) reported that a 26-year-old male teacher in the city’s Dong Anh district had died 39 hours after inoculation with the coronavirus vaccine manufactured by the British-Swedish AstraZeneca, the fifth such post-vaccination death in Vietnam.

A report in the health ministry’s Health and Life newspaper said that a council of experts concluded that the cause of death was unknown.

Clinical signs and forensic results showed no evidence that the death had been caused by anaphylaxis, which can rarely be caused by an allergic reaction to a vaccine, or embolism, when blood clots block arteries. Immunization and screening procedures were carried out in accordance with current regulations, the report said. 

The four previous deaths wera a 35-year-old female health worker in An Giang province, a 27-year-old worker and a 46-year-old driver in Bac Giang province, and a 55-year-old officer in Binh Thuan province.

Only the case of the female health worker in An Giang was confirmed to have been caused by anaphylaxis. She died one day after vaccination.

No license for domestic vaccine

Also on Tuesday, Nanogen, the manufacturer of Vietnam’s Nanocovax vaccine, told local media that it had submitted a proposal for an urgent approval for local use to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh as the vaccine had a 99.4 percent rate of producing immunogenic responses, but the health ministry said there was not enough scientific evidence to approve it.

“[The 99.4 precent figure is] only the immunogenicity,” Nguyen Ngo Quang, the deputy head of the Administration of Science Technology and Training under the Ministry of Health, told local media.

“We haven’t got the research results on how the immunogenicity/vaccine could reduce Covid-19 infection rates or its severity or not,” said Quang.

He also said that the vaccine had undergone two phases of clinical trials and showed great immunogenicity. However, the sample size was still too small as the company has collected samples from only several hundred people while it needs tens of thousands.

Similarly, in its third phase trial, only 1,000 people had been given the first dose of the vaccine, but it should be tested on 13,000 people as planned.

Moreover, experts would also need to evaluate the vaccine's immunogenicity and effectiveness on the 36th, 45th and 56th day following the second shot, he said.

“Those are the bases to assess the immunogenicity and efficacy of the vaccine. Therefore, it takes at least two months and needs to reach this number of samples to be qualified for evaluation,” said Quang to the Tuoi Tre newspaper.

He also said that the ministry has been strongly supporting the development of domestic vaccines to help Vietnam improve its vaccine supply as well as its vaccine autonomy. However, before giving approval to a vaccine, the Ministry must have sufficient data on its safety, immunogenicity and especially protective efficacy.

“Our goal is to protect people's health, so it is necessary to thoroughly weigh the benefits and risks. Careful approval does not mean we are trying to make it hard for businesses,’ he told Health and Life.

Vietnam has been among the most effective countries in tackling COVID-19, reporting no deaths among its 95 million people through late July 2020—a record that was attributed to effective contact tracing, strict quarantines, and early testing.

Since then, four separate waves of the virus swept over the country, with 13,782 confirmed cases and 69 deaths, according to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Cambodian Political Prisoners’ Wives Fear for Husbands’ Health

Prison food lacks nutrition, and authorities should allow prisoners' families to visit, one rights group says.

Cambodian Political Prisoners’ Wives Fear for Husbands’ Health

The wives of two political prisoners held in Cambodian jails are fearing for their husbands’ health after seeing them in failing health during recent visits, the women said, blaming prison authorities for failing to provide the men with adequate food.

Tek Sok Lorn, the wife of jailed opposition activist Prov Chantheun, said she was shocked at her husband’s appearance when she saw him through a glass partition at the Mort Khmung prison in Tbong Khmum province.

Her husband was thin, pale, and exhausted, and looked sadly at her through hollow eyes, Tek Sok Lorn told RFA on Wednesday.

“When I walked into the prison facility to visit him, I saw his tears,” she said.

“As his wife I am really concerned about his health, since he isn’t getting any sunlight. I am requesting the court to please render justice for us, and I’m asking the judge to be loyal to the Khmer nation and know what is right and what is wrong,” she said.

Nguon Phalla, the wife another Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) activist, Um Yet, said she had previously been able to bring him food every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and that he had been in good health during the last four months.

But now her husband has lost weight, has high blood pressure, and suffers from stomach pains possibly caused by malnutrition, she said.

“[The court] should release him,” Nguon Phalla said, adding, “He appears to have lost about 10 kilos of weight after being held for only six months, and I’m concerned that if he’s left like this he may lose even more, and that his life may be at risk.”

“I’m asking the court to release him and drop all the charges against him,” she added.

Verdicts to be announced

On June 30, the Tbong Khmum provincial court will announce verdicts in the cases of 14 political and land-rights activists. Eight of these, including six CNRP members and two land-rights activists, are now being held in the provincial prison, sources said.

Arrested between late 2020 and January 2021, they face charges of plotting, conspiracy to topple the government, and inciting social chaos for having worn T-shirts bearing political slogans and for gathering in protest last year in front of the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh.

The CNRP was banned and disbanded, and its leader Kem Sokha arrested, in late 2017 as part of a wider crackdown on civil society by longtime ruler Hun Sen, driving many party leaders into exile.

Speaking to RFA on Wednesday, Nuth Savana—spokesperson for the General Directorate of Prisons—said that inmates’ families are allowed to bring them food, medicine, and other amenities, and that prison officials always pay attention to the condition of their prisoners’ health.

The rate of new COVID-19 infections in the prisons is now declining, though one new case was recently found in the Kompong Thom provincial prison, Nuth Savana said. Physical contact between prisoners and their families is still barred, though, he added.

“During a workshop we held yesterday with the International Red Cross, we discussed the possibility of allowing video calls or phone calls between inmates and their families. These are all just options for discussion, though,” he said. “We haven’t made any decisions yet.”

'We cannot be silent'

Prum Chantha, the wife of political opposition figure Kak Komphear who remains locked up in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar Prison, said that after her group—named “Friday wives” for their weekly protests—appealed for help from foreign embassies, prison officials allowed her to send food to her husband.

She is still not allowed to meet with him in person, though, she said.

Prum Chantha said she is concerned over reports of the spread of COVID-19 in the prisons, adding that her group will continue to appeal to foreign embassies in Cambodia for intervention in their husbands’ cases.

“We cannot be silent. My husband didn’t commit any legal offense, so I must demand his release and look for ways to make that happen,” she said. “If all these officials were in this position, they would also miss their spouses and children,” she added.

Prison food often lacks nutrition, and prison officials should allow inmates’ family members to visit and bring them food, said Am Sam Ath of the local rights group Licadho.

“We always look for ways to encourage the prison department to facilitate visits by the families of detainees,” he said.

Courts and the relevant government departments should also address the issue of overcrowding in the prisons, Am Sam Ath said.

“We have seen the the Ministry of Justice is currently drafting a proposal to allow inmates whose full sentences have almost been served to be released under certain conditions. But we also want to see a decision reached in the cases of prisoners held while waiting for their trial.”

“We call on the courts to speed up their procedures so that these cases can be heard, with some detainees being given priority for release,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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