Vietnam concerned over vaccine supply as COVID-19 cases near record

A health worker wearing a protective suit labels a sample tube at the National Convention Center, the venue for the 13th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Hanoi, Vietnam January 29, 2021. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo

HANOI, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Vietnam's government on Thursday said it was facing a tense situation over rising coronavirus cases and a shortage of vaccines, as the country saw another day of near-record cases from its longest and most severe outbreak yet.

Most of the 9,667 new infections were in the epicentre Ho Chi Minh City and its neighbouring industrial provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai. The health ministry said there were 326 new COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, taking overall fatalities to 4,813.

"The disease situation is very tense, and we face a vaccine shortage nationwide," said deputy prime minister Vu Duc Dam, who heads Vietnam's coronavirus taskforce.

Dam said deals and commitments had been secured for hundreds of millions of vaccines but delivery was slow. Vietnamese leaders have over the past months made around 20 phone calls to foreign counterparts to try to secure more.

Vietnam until recently has had one of Asia's best coronavirus containment records, but the situation has deteriorated lately, with infection numbers on a typical day exceeding those recorded over the whole of last year.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at a cabinet meeting on Thursday urged domestic production of Vietnam's homegrown coronavirus vaccines to be brought forward.

Fewer than 1.1 million of Vietnam's 98 million people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to official data, one of Asia's lowest rates of immunisation. It has received around 18 million doses so far.

The country has recorded more than 246,500 infections, the overwhelming majority of those since late April.

Editing by Martin Petty

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