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Jul 03, 2022 / 21:31

Public urged to get booster shots against Omicron subvariants

The booster shots are expected to help extend protection against subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh has urged localities and organizations to accelerate the delivery of booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines to all adults and children to prevent infection of the disease.

In a document sent to localities and organizations on July 2, Chinh said the new sub-variant of Omicron (BA.5) has been detected in Vietnam, increasing the risk of the disease outbreaks again, emphasizing that the administration of the booster shots has been slow, and action must be taken to speed up the process.

An old woman is vaccinated against Covid-19 in Hanoi. Photo: Chi Kien

"Vietnam's vaccination campaign has been basically successful, but the speed of the injection of booster doses for adults has been slow recently. There is no shortage of Covid-19 vaccines, so provinces and cities should accelerate vaccinations following the prime minister's instructions," the document said.

Although vaccination for children between the ages of five and under 12 has been underway for nearly three months, progress is still slow. The PM requested that the localities should speed it up.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health (MoH) said that all  over-18-year-old people nationwide had already received two doses of vaccine, and more than 55% had three doses. As for people aged between 12 and 17, the coverage of the first dose injection is 100% whereas the second dose is nearly 97%.

Earlier, the MoH sent several documents to urge localities to get enough vaccine doses, to ensure high vaccine coverage.

Booster shots are essential to prevent Covid-19 infection

Speaking at a seminar on the matter held by the Government Portal on July 1, Prof. Dr. Phan Trong Lan, director of the Department of Preventive Medicine under the MoH, stressed that booster shots are essential to prevent Covid-19 infection.

“Most Vietnamese residents have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by February 2022. Nevertheless, antibody levels among vaccinated people will decline after four to six months,” Lan said.

Assoc. Prof.Dr. Tran Minh Dien (left) and Prof. Dr. Phan Trong Lan. Photo: Quang Thuong

The booster shots are essential for those with compromised immune systems and old people to get a longer immunity, Lan said, suggesting that they should be injected on schedule and at the right dose.

The director also emphasized the importance of vaccinating frontline health workers as they are among high-risk groups. The vaccine will help reduce coronavirus infection in other people.

For his part, Associate Prof. Dr. Tran Minh Dien, director of the National Paediatric Hospital, noted the concerns about the possibility of children infected with sub-variants of Omicron (BA.4 and BA.5).

“Studies have shown that between 20%-25% of children are infected with the coronavirus. Most severe cases are mainly related to chronic or underlying diseases,” Dien said.

He stressed that if the sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 spread rapidly in the community, there could be transmission from children to the elderly and adults due to the fact that they do not follow the Covid-19 prevention protocols as strictly as adults.

 An effective disease surveillance system

Over the past two years, the detection of new local infections of Covid-19 has proved the efficiency of Vietnam’s communicable disease surveillance system, which can help the Vietnamese Government to early detect gene groups or new strains, Dr. Socorro Escalante, acting chief representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Vietnam, said at the above-mentioned seminar.

Dr. Socorro Escalante, WHO’s acting chief representative in Vietnam. Photo: Quang Thuong

With a good surveillance system, it will not be a surprise that more cases of community transmission will be recorded in the time ahead, Socorro Escalante said.

She spoke highly of Vietnam’s system for coronavirus prevention and control, which has swiftly quarantined, monitored, and traced confirmed cases, and suggested the enforcement of social distancing, public health measures, and restriction of mass gatherings for a long period of time.

The WHO representative added that the vaccine currently used in Vietnam is also effective against strains of BA.4 and BA.5. That is the reason why the Vietnamese Government still recommends that people should get booster shots of vaccine.

The measures Vietnam is taking are necessary to detect and confirm new Covid-19 cases, Socorro Escalante stressed.

She noted that the strains, including both BA.4 and BA.5, have been more likely to spread. Experts don't know exactly if its virulence is higher, but the vaccine currently used is effective against both sub-variants.

Socorro Escalante also expressed her confidence in Vietnam’s response plans in case of widespread transmission, saying WHO will keep standing side by side with the country to deal with challenges caused by the pandemic.