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Health

Vietnam opts for containment over 'high risk' rush for costly vaccine

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam will stick to its strategy of containing COVID-19 rather than rush to secure a supply of a vaccine that could be financially risky, the head of the country’s coronavirus task force said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wears a protective mask as she drives past a banner promoting prevention against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Hanoi, Vietnam July 31, 2020. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo

Through months of aggressive mass testing, military-run centralised quarantine and early border closures, Vietnam has kept its coronavirus tally to just 1,210 cases and gone over two months without community transmission.

Just 35 people have died from COVID-19 in Vietnam, according to official data, with the country widely praised for its decisive response to quelling outbreaks.

“The vaccine is a story for the future,” task force chief and deputy prime minister, Vu Duc Dam, told a government meeting on Friday.

“Demand is far higher than supply, and we have to pay large deposits to secure our position, which I see as very high risk and a waste of money and time.”

“We will continue to deal with COVID as we are now,” said Dam.

In August, as Vietnam fought a new outbreak of the virus after more than three months without local transmission, Hanoi said it had registered to buy a 50-150 million doses of a Russian vaccine.

Vietnam will also buy from Britain, where it has a partnership to develop a home-grown vaccine with the University of Bristol.

“We have to be prepared for the fact that the pandemic will not end until 2021,” said Dam. “Our home-grown vaccine will enter human trials this month but won’t be available until end-2021.”

Vietnam has spent nearly 18 trillion dong ($776.7 million) on containing the virus and its impacts, official data shows.

Its measures have put its economy on track to recover faster than most.

In September, the government said it was targeting gross domestic product growth of 2.0%-2.5% this year and 6.7% in 2021.

($1 = 23,177 dong)

(Refiles to make clear in paragraph 1 that COVID-19 task force head referring to avoiding financial risk)

Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Martin Petty

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