Vietnam says looking to buy Russia virus vaccine

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 14 2020 11:11 PM

This handout picture taken on Aug. 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Russian Direct Investment Fund, Handout/AFP

HANOI - Vietnam's health ministry is looking to buy a bulk order of Russia's coronavirus vaccine, state media said Friday, despite global skepticism over its effectiveness and safety.

The communist nation of 95 million people has been widely praised for its effective handling of the pandemic and went nearly 100 days without recording a locally transmitted infection until last month. 

But an outbreak in the beach resort of Danang has put the country back on high alert and several towns are under virtual lockdown. 

Vietnam could receive up to 150 million doses with a fraction of them donated by Russia, state newspaper Tuoi Tre reported, adding that acting health minister Nguyen Thanh Long had approved the purchase.

But state news website VNExpress said officials were still deliberating over a health ministry plan to buy the vaccine doses.

Moscow said this week it had developed the world's first vaccine offering "sustainable immunity" against the coronavirus and was in the final stage of human trials.

Germany and the US are among the countries to cast doubt on the claim, after Western scientists raised concerns about the speed of its development and suggested that researchers might be cutting corners.

It was not clear when Vietnam would be able to receive the vaccine doses, but Tuoi Tre reported that Russia had also agreed to donate "a number of machines" and other medical equipment to help contain the outbreak.

Vietnam has reported just 911 coronavirus cases and 21 deaths after an aggressive public health response involving mass quarantines and a robust track-and-trace regime. 

The country has maintained a strong relationship with Russia since the days of the Soviet Union.