On 18 June, EuroCham held a webinar to update members on the progress of our COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Late last month, with Vietnam in the midst of a fourth wave outbreak, EuroCham wrote an ‘open letter’ to the government urging them to accelerate Vietnam’s vaccination program and to allow private companies to cover the cost of vaccinating their own staff. We followed this up with high-level meetings with the Minister of Health and Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam.

The purpose of this webinar was to inform our members about what has happened since we began our campaign to encourage the acceleration of and support for the vaccination roll out in Vietnam. Over the last few weeks, we have engaged in a wide range of approaches and received a lot of information from partners and Vietnamese authorities which we wished to share with our members, along with our future plans.

More than 400 members joined the webinar, entitled ‘EuroCham Vaccination Campaign Update’. It featured as special guest speakers EuroCham Chairman Alain Cany, Vice-Chair Nguyen Hai Minh, and Dr Jean-Marcel Guillon, CEO of FV Hospital.

Introducing the event, Alain Cany described the initiatives EuroCham has taken so far in dialogue with the government. These included letters from our Sector Committees on issues such as the roll out of a mass vaccination campaign, prioritization for front-line workers, and the impact of quarantine on the tourism sector. EuroCham has also launched a campaign to encourage a mass vaccination program – with the involvement of the private sector – as well as a reduction in quarantine requirements for foreign workers who have had a jab in their home countries.

Mr Cany then shared EuroCham’s view on the current situation. He said that Vietnam has done well in securing orders for vaccines – around 130 million so far – through a combination of different suppliers such as AstraZeneca and COVAX as well as donations from other governments. This should be enough to vaccinate most of the adult population. To date, two million people have been vaccinated and less than 100,000 people have received both shots. However, deliveries of vaccinations should increase from next month, with more than 5 million set to arrive; rising to around 7 to 10 million a month from August onwards.

In terms of sourcing, Mr Cany shared that this is a ‘government-to-government’ affair. EuroCham tried to investigate the possibilities of the private sector securing vaccines at the start of the fourth wave; however, it is clear that suppliers are dealing direct with governments and not with private companies. For this reason, EuroCham set up in coordination with the EU Delegation a meeting with EU Member State embassies to brief them on our campaign and to ask for their assistance in helping Vietnam to secure more vaccinations and to consider vaccinating their citizens. Our message was that Vietnam should be prioritized for donations.

In terms of logistics, Mr Cany emphasized that EuroCham is pushing for the private sector to be involved in the roll out and deliveries of vaccines. Our chamber is urging that the vaccination fund be transparent, and we are aligned with our fellow chambers such as AmCham, CanCham, AusCham and BritCham on this. We have also requested that, along with workers in industrial zones, those who work in front-line roles for Pharma and medical devices sales staff also be prioritized for vaccination. Meanwhile, EuroCham continues to advocate for a reduction in quarantine for foreigners who have received the vaccine in their home countries, and we have received tentative, positive feedback on this proposal.

Nguyen Hai Minh then provided an update on EuroCham’s engagement with the government. He shared that EuroCham has coordinated its efforts with local and foreign business communities including VCCI and local business associations. Together, we have emphasized that private enterprises wish to cover the cost of vaccinating their own workforce, rather than procuring vaccines ourselves. Minh then shared some feedback from the government, which has cautioned against some companies advertising the private sale of vaccines. In terms of Vietnam’s vaccination fund, Minh shared with them the difficulties that companies have in contributing to a government fund. In response, the government has promised to look at this issue in order to find the best solution.

Later, Dr Guillon described how FV Hospital and Private Clinics have been working with the government in order to prepare the ground for a mass vaccination campaign, including preparing storage facilities and mobile vaccination units. He shared that mass vaccination in large urban areas requires these facilities – air-conditioned tents with pre-screening and nurses to administer the shots – to prevent long queues at vaccination centers. Dr Guillon also emphasized that vaccines have a shelf-life, and so must be used within a few months of their arrival into Vietnam. Therefore, the program needs to be rolled out at speed. He concluded that these vaccinations are safe and effective against all current strains of the virus.

In the Question and Answer (Q&A) session, speakers discussed a wide range of topics with a significant number of questions being raised throughout the event. These included a request for business leaders to use their own networks and headquarters to press for more vaccines to be sent to Vietnam; the importance of companies preparing their teams now for when vaccines are available; the list of people who would be prioritized for vaccination; issues surrounding the current quarantine regulations; the challenges for private companies to contribute to a government fund, and; how a global shortage in the COVAX program could affect Vietnam.

The COVID-19 situation continues to develop, and EuroCham will continue to share with members updates on our work with the government on this important topic.

Source: European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam- EuroCham