Vietnam is continuing to see a major surge in Covid-19 cases after remarkable success in containing the virus up until the last few months. As the highly contagious Delta variant spreads throughout the country, a major short-coming has been the country’s slow vaccine roll-out program. Ironically this is mostly a result of Vietnam’s initial success in containing the virus in that the country was slow to place and prioritize vaccine orders as the situation was well under control until only recently. The following is Access Asia Group’s latest update on the situation in collaboration with Vietnam Weekly, one of the few independent news publications covering current affairs in Vietnam.
At present, Vietnam is facing a major nation-wide outbreak and is one of the worst performers in Southeast Asia when it comes to vaccinations: only 4.1 million people have received one shot (4.2% of the population), and 450,800 people are fully vaccinated (0.5% of the population). There are crucial macro issues at play here: a global shortage of doses; India’s outbreak derailing a huge amount of AstraZeneca intended for the region; and Vietnam’s reluctance to rely on Chinese vaccines (unlike its neighbors) due to sociopolitical reality.
But what isn’t getting talked about so much (largely because the data is only just coming to light) is just how slowly Vietnam is administering what it already has.
Earlier today, Tuoi Tre reported in Vietnamese on the poor progress of Ho Chi Minh City’s ongoing drive to inject 930,000 doses; a campaign which began six days ago.
Overall, 624 community-level vaccination sites have been set up around the city, and the initial aim was for them to average 120 shots per day, or 74,880 doses per day in total, meaning it would take 12 days for HCMC to complete the process.
As of this writing, the city has averaged only 36,881 shots per day, or 59 people a day across the vaccination sites.
The article goes on to note that some vaccination points are over-performing, while others are severely under-performing thanks to a shortage of health workers. This echoes some social media chatter wondering if too many resources are being devoted to contract tracing and testing, to the detriment of vaccinations.
It’s certainly hard to argue that resources, whether human or financial, should be taken away from testing and tracing, but we are going to be in a lockdown for a long, long time if vaccinations remain this slow.
Sadly, the lack of mass vaccine access creates huge space for corruption and nepotism too, which we’re already seeing hints of (and probably means there is far more going on that we don’t know about).
Officials in Hanoi, just to note, have set a goal of 200,000 shots per day as it begins its latest vaccination drive, which seems hugely ambitious given HCMC’s slow pace.
International media is starting to pick up on the vaccination struggle, with The Straits Times running a piece earlier today, and this is only going to look worse if other regional countries continue to vaccinate at a healthy clip.
The delivery conundrum
While rules surrounding deliveries may sound inconsequential compared to vaccinations, which are the only way out of this right now, they have a real impact on residents and businesses on a daily basis – and there has been extreme confusion over this matter from the start of the outbreak.
In HCMC, that began with the unexpected total ban on restaurant deliveries when Directive 16 came online almost three weeks ago, effectively shutting down the entire F&B industry indefinitely.
This Monday, the situation became even more complicated, as the city ruled that shippers could only deliver within the same district, while also ordering companies like Grab to arrange QR codes for their drivers and armbands with ‘Shipper’ emblazoned on them. (This also comes after police reportedly stopped some people who were wearing Grab/Gojek etc. jackets in order to get through checkpoints even though weren’t actually a driver for these companies.)
These rules have hammered anyone trying to deliver something (my partner ordered home Covid test kits from a business in the same district as us and it took several hours for the company to find a driver), and supermarkets have had to cancel online orders en masse since there aren’t enough drivers.
The stated purpose of these restrictions is to reduce the transmission risk from drivers, which makes sense, but the rules have the knock-on effect of forcing more people to leave home and go to a potentially crowded supermarket/convenience store – exactly the type of environment that Delta absolutely thrives in.
This goes well beyond individual household challenges too, as manufacturing supply chains are breaking amid the numerous, fast-changing rules regarding transit both within and between provinces.
The government has placed great emphasis on maintaining supply chains for everyone from Samsung to single households, but they seem completely flummoxed by how to address the drivers who actually make up these chains (leading VnExpress to even call shippers the “forgotten cog”).
Hanoi hasn’t been any better, with officials initially banning all deliveries outright, then walking that back to allowing retail deliveries, and now Grab has completely halted all services in the capital. Grab, to its credit, has started vaccinating drivers in HCMC, but this is probably something the government should’ve prioritized as soon as they started restricting deliveries, as we’re really in an age where they are indispensable to almost everyone.
Despite Vietnam’s lock-down and restrictions of movement, Access Asia Group remains open for business in Vietnam. Our team here is still able to work remotely and diligently. Should you have any queries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.