Picture used for illustrative purpose. File
Vietnam's health ministry has registered to buy a Russian COVID-19 vaccine, state television reported on Friday, as the Southeast Asian country fights a new outbreak of the coronavirus following months of no local cases.
Russia said on Wednesday the first batch of the world's first COVID-19 vaccine would be rolled out within two weeks, rejecting as "groundless" the safety concerns aired by some experts over Moscow's rapid approval of the drug.
"In the meantime, Vietnam will still continue developing the country's own COVID-19 vaccine," state broadcaster Vietnam Television (VTV) said, citing Vietnam's Ministry of Health.
The ministry did not say how many doses of the Russian vaccine it had ordered, or when it expected to receive them. Vietnam's own home-grown vaccine will be available by the end of 2021, the ministry said last month.
Vietnam was lauded for suppressing an earlier contagion through aggressive testing, contact-tracing and quarantining, but it is now racing to control infections in multiple locations linked to the popular holiday city of Danang, where a new outbreak was detected on July 25.
Vietnam has reported a total of 911 infections, with 21 deaths. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has warned that the risk of wider spread of the virus is "very high", and said that the next several days would be "critical" in fighting the outbreak.
The head of Vietnam's coronavirus taskforce, Vu Duc Dam, said on Friday that Vietnam now had no choice but to "live safely with the virus".
"We are implementing the anti-virus measures of a poor country, so everyone has to stay alert and know how to protect themselves from the virus," Dam said, according to state media.
The World Health Organization said any WHO stamp of approval on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate would require a rigorous safety data review, after Russia announced Tuesday it had approved a vaccine.
Russia has said the vaccine, developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute and the first for the coronavirus to go into production, will be rolled out by the end of this month. Some scientists said they fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.
Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency official at WHO Europe said the agency had begun "direct discussions” with Russia and that WHO officials have been sharing "the various steps and information that’s going to be required for WHO to take assessments.”
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