HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam administered its first COVID-19 doses Monday to the front-line workers who made the nation's relative success in controlling the pandemic possible — health workers, contact tracers and security forces who handled quarantine duties.
The Southeast Asian nation of 96 million people has a goal to inoculate at least half of the population by the end of the year.
Thousands of doctors, nurses and technicians working at hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients lined up in the morning and received the first jabs of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"I have been waiting for this day for a long time," nurse Nguyen Thi Huyen said after she got her injection. Huyen has been caring for COVID-19 patients at a tropical disease hospital in Hanoi the past year. Health protocols limited her time with family, among other challenges. "I hope the vaccine will be available for everyone so we can contain the virus and get back to normal life," she said.
The first batch of over 100,000 doses in a 30 million-dose order of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca arrived two weeks ago. Separately, Vietnam expects to secure another 30 million doses of the same vaccine through COVAX, a U.N.-backed initiative created to ensure vaccine access to low- and middle-income countries.
It is also negotiating with Pfizer for another 30 million doses, according to the health ministry.
After COVID-19 first responders, the next group to be vaccinated will be diplomats, workers providing essential services, teachers, senior citizens and people with chronic illnesses.
Vietnam has recorded 2,512 cases of COVID-19, a low number compared to other countries. Despite a fresh outbreak detected in two northern provinces in January, it has managed to contain the virus's spread and resume business activities.