HANOI, Vietnam – Vietnam is stepping up its vaccination program in an effort to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions in major cities by the end of the month, the government said Monday.
Health workers administered the vaccine overnight in the capital, Hanoi, which has been on lockdown since July.
The health ministry said more than one million vaccine shots were given in Hanoi over the weekend, out of the nearly 5.5 million administered there since the vaccination began in March.
“We need to speed up vaccination activities so that we can plan to reopen the city,” Hanoi Mayor Chu Ngok Anh said on Sunday. More than half of the country’s 98 million population is in lockdown.
About 0% of the city’s 5.7 million adults have received at least one shot, with authorities targeting 100% by the end of this week.
However, the overall vaccination rate in the country is about 28% lower and only 4% are fully vaccinated with both vaccines.
Vietnam has managed to keep the infection rate relatively low until April this year, where only 35 people died. Last year it was lauded for controlling the virus, a success that is generally responsible for the discipline of being a single-party communist state with strict controls at all levels.
But the lack of a vaccine has forced Vietnam to slow its vaccination activities in recent months, with even delta variants of the virus infecting more than 600,000 people and killing more than 15,000 in just four months.
In Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s business center and most affected by geyser, more than 95% of adults have received the first vaccine, but many of those who need to come for a second dose have not been able to get it.
Among the measures to address the shortage, the Vietnamese health authorities have allowed a combination of two different doses of COVID-19 vaccine to expedite the vaccination campaign. Experts say the strategy is probably safe and effective, but researchers are still collecting data to be sure.
Vietnam is currently using Chinese-made vaccines called AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Sinopharm.