Nov 30, 2021 / 16:26

Vietnam works with WHO, CDC on Omicron variant

Vietnam is advised to maintain epidemiological surveillance and boost genome sequencing to detect the variant.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health today [Nov 30] worked with representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the risk of Omicron variant transmission.

 Dr. Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Vietnam, at the meeting with Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long on Nov 30. Screenshots: Minh Vu

Working with Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long on Tuesday morning were Dr. Kidong Park, WHO Representative in Vietnam, John MacArthur, MD, Director of CDC Southeast Asia Regional Office, and Dr. Matthew Moore, Director of CDC Vietnam’s Global Health Security Program, the Vietnam Television (VTV) reported.

At the meeting, Dr. Kidong Park made four recommendations for Vietnam namely epidemiological surveillance, the 5K (masking – disinfection – distance – no gathering – medical declaration) with vaccination, health system improvement, and dissemination.

Meanwhile, John MacArthur and Matthew Moore stressed the risk of Omicron transmission around the globe. They recommended Vietnam enhance monitoring and testing and conduct more training in sampling. Of the suggestions, Vietnam is advised to strengthen genome sequencing to quickly detect new strains.

Health Minister Long said Vietnam has not found any cases with Omicron yet. However, it is monitoring the situation.

The country is speeding up the vaccination to cover people with two doses by the end of this year. In addition, it plans in December to provide booster shots to people aged above 50 who would have been inoculated the second jabs for six months.

Notably, it continues improving medical capacity to offer people health services as quickly as possible.

 John MacArthur, MD, Director of CDC Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi, at the meeting.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus, referred to as B.1.1.529 by the WHO, which is potentially more contagious Covid-19 variant, was first identified in South Africa.

It has been listed “variant of concern” by international health experts who warned that it poses a “very high” global risk because of the possibility that it spreads more easily and might resist vaccines and immunity in people who were infected with previous strains.

WHO said there are “considerable uncertainties” about the Omicron variant. But it said preliminary evidence raises the possibility that the variant has mutations that could help it both evade an immune-system response and boost its ability to spread from one person to another.

Last week, a WHO advisory panel said it might be more likely to re-infect people who have already had with Covid-19.

Scientists have long warned that the virus will keep finding new ways to exploit weaknesses in the world’s vaccination drive, and its discovery in Africa occurred in a continent where under 7% of the population is vaccinated.

So far, more than 10 countries and territories have reported cases of the Omicron variant, including Australia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Israel, Hong Kong, Botswana, Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada.

Dr. Matthew Moore, Director of CDC Vietnam’s Global Health Security Program, speaks at the meeting. 

To cope with the transmission of Omicron, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on November 29 asked local authorities to monitor it.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Health is tasked with updating the variant and continuing to monitor the pandemic evolution to submit timely measures.

It also requires the collaboration among the Ministries of Health, Foreign Affairs, Transport, Public Security, Defense, and authorized agencies to control air connection and immigration of people from and transit to Omicron-affected countries to prevent the import of the new variant. 

Earlier, the Ministry of Health proposed the government suspend air connection with and immigration from countries affected by the new variant.