On February 24, Vietnam welcomed the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines; 12 days later, after a series of analyses on the vaccines’ safety, the country’s first ever COVID-19 mass inoculation started. Frontline workers in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Duong were among the first to receive the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
But for Boris, an expat living in Vietnam for more than five years now, it’s not the vaccine that makes him feel safe in Vietnam. It’s the government’s strategic handling of the outbreaks. “I am extremely satisfied with how the Vietnamese government managed this crisis, they have put radical measures in place and they’re prompt and extensive,” he shared.
Working as a product manager in Hanoi with his Vietnamese wife and son, Boris feels safer here than in his home country in Europe, saying he’d rather stay in Vietnam than go back home.
Rahul, an Indian national working as a software engineer in HCMC and living with his wife and two kids, remains hopeful the Vietnamese government will soon include foreign nationals in the COVID-19 inoculation.
“I’ve been flying in and out of the country for almost four years now, and two years ago, we decided to settle here permanently. We’re glad of all places to get stuck during the pandemic, we’re in Vietnam,” he expressed.
Adding even before the vaccine came, his family is already fine having to face the impact of the coronavirus in the country’s business capital. “I have trust in the Vietnamese government and given the chance, despite the fear of its side effects and whatnots, I’d happily and gladly get vaccinated here, including my whole family.”
Both Boris and Rahul have their whole family in the country, giving them more reasons to stay here and wait until everything goes back to usual.
While we all continue following public health guidance and await maximum vaccine uptake, we have other work to do and lives to live. As post-vaccination life approaches, we’re all trying our best to reprogram our brains to feel safe again and embrace a (new) normal way of living.
Jackie, an English teacher in the central part of Vietnam and sharing an apartment with her friends, has managed to reprogram her mind and senses to be able to adapt to the new normal. Getting the vaccine here or anywhere else or not at all doesn’t really change anything for her.
“I love Vietnam, that's why I came here to start my career but that’s when the pandemic started as well, not so lucky I guess. After everything cools down, I’ll fly out and find my way back home and who knows, I can get my vaccine somewhere in Europe or back in the US or still in Asia,” she said.
“I care about this but I don’t really mind whether I get vaccinated or not, I take care of myself enough to worry about that and I do my job to keep everyone around me safe at the same time. I’ve learned to live the new normal way,” she expressed.
‘Would also cover non-residents’
Even if it poses a possible threat of infection spread, Vietnam still allows experts and skilled workers to enter the country. On the other hand, there are non-residents like Boris, Rahul, and Jackie who chose to remain in the country until the worst is over and borders are reopened.
The Vietnamese government hinted they plan to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to both residents and non-residents as soon as possible, starting in the capital city.
In terms of eligibility, even as other nations begin inoculating their residents, both locals and expats, such unprecedented times mean procedures and rules for those eligible for vaccines are unclear or vary wildly between countries or even between state lines.
A month ago, addressing reporters’ questions at a municipal Center for Disease Control (CDC) meeting, deputy director Khong Minh Tuan said authorities in the capital have been proactive in sourcing coronavirus vaccine doses.
“On February 19, the municipal authorities sent a written petition to the Ministry of Health to ensure the city’s access to the vaccine source,” Tuan said.
The early request was to secure ample doses for all eligible citizens 18 years old and older in the capital. The COVID-19 vaccination would also cover non-residents, Tuan noted.
“According to the priority order of the Ministry of Health, the shots will be distributed to 13 provinces and cities that have reported COVID-19 infections, including Hanoi,” said the city’s CDC deputy director.
On April 1, the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccine via the Covax mechanism arrived at Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport. Over 800,000 doses have been transferred to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (NIHE) for storage, awaiting the Health Ministry's approval for distribution.
Despite the fact that the new doses will still be for frontline workers and Vietnamese residents, expats in the country continue to keep their hopes up.
Moreover, because of production delays and demand, supplies remain insufficient in the country and globally. And the confusion especially for the non-residents may lead them to look to other countries, which could become a huge issue as borders remain closed.
As one of the countries with the most stringent rules, discussions about opening for vaccinated tourists, or even people seeking to get inoculated have already caused concern for some in the country.
Having to send his two children to school every day, Rahul still gets anxious. As for plans of border reopening, Jackie hopes the Vietnamese government would stay cautious and prudent. Vietnam’s been widely considered as the safest country to be in right now, but one mistake can quickly change it all.