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Vietnam expects to receive first COVID vaccines before end of March

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam is expected to get access to the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX sharing scheme within the first quarter, its government said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labelled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

COVAX has allocated at least 330 million doses of vaccines to poorer countries and will aim to deliver these and many millions more in the first half of 2021.

COVAX is jointly run by the GAVI alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and UNICEF.

Vietnam will receive between 4.89 million and 8.25 million doses, the government said on Saturday, adding that 25%-35% would be delivered in the first quarter and the rest in the second quarter.

The government cited a WHO official as saying that the vaccine it will receive under the COVAX scheme is made by AstraZeneca.

The health ministry approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for domestic inoculations on Jan. 30.

Apart from the COVAX scheme, the government has earlier said it would buy up to 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the first batch would arrive by the end of March.

Vietnam reported five more COVID-19 cases on Saturday and said a recent outbreak had expanded to at least 12 cities and provinces.

The outbreak detected on Jan. 27 has accounted for about a fifth of Vietnam’s total of 1,981 coronavirus cases. It has recorded 35 deaths overall, among the lowest numbers in Asia.

The government on Friday called for food production to be maintained to ensure sufficient supplies “in any circumstances” referring to a possible larger spread of the virus.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Additional reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Editing by Martin Petty

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