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Vaccine Fund: Preventing and Controlling Covid-19 Pandemic of Vietnam



Ceremony of Vietnam's Vaccine Fund for Covid-19 Prevention and Control Photo: by Vietnam News Agency

Up to early June 2021, Vietnam has experienced four large-scale outbreaks of Covid-19. Compared to the previous three ones, the 4th outbreak was assessed to be the largest in scale, more complicated and more difficult to be controlled due to the appearance of new strains of virus. In addition to such epidemic preventing and controlling measures that have been applied during the previous three outbreaks as Wearing masks, Disinfecting, Medical Declarating, Keeping distance, and No gathering, the Government of Vietnam has recently come up with a new solution; that is the establishment of the Vaccine Fund. This new measure is evaluated as an initiative of the Government of Vietnam to mobilize the participation and contributions of many individuals and organizations domestically and abroad to give opportunities for about 75% of the population who will be protected by vaccine in 2021.

Up to now, Vietnam has experienced 4 outbreaks of Covid-19 epidemic

On January 22nd, 2020, the first case of Covid-19 that was from Wuhan-China was found in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. According to the division of the Ministry of Health, Vietnam is currently in the 4th outbreak.

The first outbreak lasted 85 days (from January 23rd, 2020 to April 16th, 2020) and had the least number of cases with 100 cases in the community. During this period, the disease spread to 13 provinces and cities of Vietnam with no deaths.

The second outbreak lasted 129 days (from July 25th, 2020 to December 1st, 2020) but peaked in 36 days (from July 25th, 2020 to August 29th, 2020), recording up to 554 cases in the community, 5.5 times more than the number of cases in the first epidemic, with 35 deaths.

 The third outbreak lasted 57 days (from January 28th, 2021 to March 25th, 2021), which broke out in Hai Duong from a labor exporter who was found to be positive when entering Japan. This outbreak recorded up to 910 patients with Covid-19 in the community, nearly twice as much as the second epidemic, with no deaths.

The fourth outbreak in Vietnam began on April 27th, 2021 with the case of a hotel staff member in Yen Bai, where the Indian experts were isolated. After that, more cases were continuously found in many provinces and cities of Vietnam, especially in Central Hospital II in Hanoi, Tropical Hospital II, Oncology Hospital III… These cases had a rapid spread in the community, causing the number of infected people to constantly increase.

According to statistics of the Ministry of Health, as of 6pm on June 26, 2021, Vietnam has a total of 13,515 domestic cases of covid-19 and 1,760 imported cases. The total number of deaths due to Covid-19 is 77 cases. The number of new cases from the first day of the fourth outbreak up to now is 11,945 cases. This number accounts for more than 80% of the total number of patients in Vietnam since the outbreak until now, 8 times higher than the 2nd outbreak and 7 times higher than the 3rd one, spreading to 40 provinces and cities of Vietnam with a complicated level and difficulty in control.

Three previous outbreaks of the disease in Vietnam mainly originated from immigration sources and residential areas, the fourth outbreak is considered to be more dangerous because of multiple outbreaks and sources of infection. Among those outbreaks, along with the previous infections in residential areas, there are also infections in some hospitals, some industrial zones, and some religious organizations. Up to mid-June 2021, although the number of new cases per day is still high, the epidemic situation in areas mentioned above has basically been well controlled.

The biggest challenge in the fourth outbreak is that Vietnam has to face a multi-variant source of infection. Therefore, unlike the previous outbreaks when the patients suffered from severe symptoms are the elderly and those who have underlying diseases, in this epidemic, even many young people with no underlying diseases have severe symptoms. In particular, a patient who died from Covid-19 was only 22 years old.

To deal with the above situation, the Vietnamese Government has found many new solutions for epidemic prevention and control. One of the most urgent solutions given is to quickly progress the vaccination campaign for citizens to create community immunity. Vaccines are considered to be a solid shield to gradually push back the pandemic.

Vaccine Fund – an initiative for the Government and people of Vietnam to join hands and to overcome the Covid-19 epidemic

On May 26th, 2021, the Prime Minister of Vietnam signed a decision to establish Vietnam Fund for Vacination Prevention of Coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as VFVC. The purpose of the Fund is to receive, manage and use the monetary and vaccine funding, supporting and contributions from domestic and foreign organizations and individuals as well as other lawful capital sources in purchasing and importing vaccines, researching and producing vaccines domestically to protect Vietnamese citizens from Covid-19. This fund operates for non-profit purposes, uses capital for the right purposes and complies with the laws of Vietnam.

To ensure the transparence of the Fund, the Government of Vietnam has assigned responsibilities to the relevant units. The Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front is responsible for mobilizing contributing resources from organizations and individuals to the fund, and also supervises to ensure proper management and use of the fund purposefully, openly, transparently and effectively. The Ministry of Finance is assigned by the Government to manage the Fund. The Ministry of Health coordinating with the Ministry of Finance summarizes the demand of purchasing and importing vaccines, doing research and producing vaccines against the Covid-19 epidemic. Not only the financial and payment receipts are reported to the Government and the National Assembly, the mobilized amount, the list of sponsoring organizations and individuals, and the amount of money contributed as well as the expenses, the remaining balance if any are all publicized. The fund will be terminated and dissolved after the competent authority announces the completion of vaccination against Covid-19 for all people.

In order to mobilize a large number of citizens domestic and abroad to contribute to the Vaccine Fund, the Government of Vietnam has opened two ports of receiving the donation amount; that is to set up one bank account to receive domestic donations, another to receive donations from abroad, and to set up a form of direct reception via telephone switchboards. The Vaccine Fund is an essential initiative, demonstrating the Vietnamese Government’s high determination in early prevention of the Covid-19 epidemic so as to give back daily safe life routine to all citizens.

As soon as it was established, the Vaccine Fund quickly received the sympathy and support from a large number of Vietnamese people throughout the country and overseas. Just for a short time, the Fund has received great and enthusiastic support not only from agencies, units, enterprises, corporations… but also from all classes of people, including children, the elderly, the retired officials and many overseas Vietnamese. According to Vietnam Television Station, up to 19:00 of June 20, there were 325,145 organizations and individuals supporting the Vaccine Fund with a total amount of 5,777 billion VND[1]. In the coming time, the amount of money contributed to the Vaccine Fund will continuously increase, creating favorable conditions for the Government of Vietnam in implementing a large-scale Covid-19 vaccination campaign for the people.

Evaluation of Vietnam’s Vaccine Fund

According to the Ministry of Health, to vaccinate 75% of the population, it is expected that Vietnam will need to buy 150 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine. The total cost is estimated at 25,200 billion VND, in which the cost of buying vaccines is about 21 trillion VND, the cost for transportation, preservation, distribution and organization of vaccination is about 4,200 billion VND. Currently, Vietnam is still a developing country. Covid-19 has caused great difficulties for the country’s economy. If the purchase of vaccines only relies on the State budget, the goal of 75% of the population vaccinated is really challenging, even impossible. Therefore, the establishment of the Vaccine Fund is a necessity and an effective initiative of Vietnam to mobilize the large contributions of all Vietnamese people.

Finding opportunities to access vaccines is the solution not only in Vietnam but also in many countries around the world. In fact, vaccination has helped many countries worldwide significantly reduce new Covid-19 cases every day. Therefore, Vietnam’s solution to promote vaccination to have community immunity is also a right direction, in line with the general trend of the world.

International organizations in Vietnam highly appreciate the initiative of Vietnam’s Vaccine Fund because it proves the Government’s quick adaptation. According to Dr. Kidong Park, the Representative of World Health Organization in Vietnam, the Government of Vietnam’s mobilization of resources to improve access to a Covid-19 vaccine is timely, in line with the global vaccinating initiative. Dr. Kidong Park highly appreciated Vietnam’s solidarity through contributing to the Vaccine Fund: “It is this solidarity that will help Vietnam end the pandemic. It is hoped that Vietnam will continue to be an example of a universal approach to ending the pandemic.”

Sharing the same point of view with Dr. Kidong Park, Mr. Kamal Malhotra – UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam said: “This is a good initiative which the UN has been supporting for many months now”. From the perspective of the United Nations, Mr. Kamal Malhotra said that the Vietnamese Government’s establishment of the Vaccine Fund is the right solution. The Covid-19 epidemic is considered unprecedented for more than a century, a national emergency for any country. Only the Government has capacity to coordinate this fund.

Sharing about Vietnam’s initiative to establish a Covid-19 vaccine fund, Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti – Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam said that the establishment of the fund is an important part of the overall facing strategy with Covid-19 epidemic in Vietnam. The Ambassador believes that, in this strategy, the Government of Vietnam plays a key role in mobilizing and getting various resources involved. Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti said, “This shows that the Government has fully grasped the need, and so needs to take faster steps. This is a very positive thing.”

The Vaccine Fund is a humane solution of the Vietnamese Government in epidemic prevention and control. It is to create opportunities to access vaccines to many people under the motto of “leaving no one behind”. Moreover, the Vaccine Fund is a symbol of the solidarity and unity of Vietnamese people. Each VND contributed to the Fund is not only a contribution of efforts and money but also the sharing and community responsibility of the people to the Party and Government. The rapidly increasing amount of money contributed to the Fund every day is the evidence of trust of agencies, organizations and people in the right initiative of the Government in establishing the Vaccine Fund.

The prevention and control of the Covid-19 epidemic is a long and arduous battle. The Vaccine Fund is the Government of Vietnam’s new solution to create community immunity, step by step repelling the disease and bring the safe normal life back to the people.

[1] According to Vietnam Television’s 19 o’clock Newsletter, June 20, 2021

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Southeast Asia

Thailand and Kon La Krueng Co-payment Scheme: A Challenge towards Sustainable Consumption



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The COVID-19 has impacted many people around the world, particularly the poor people who are unable to meet their fundamental needs through self-sufficiency. These hard times of the COVID-19, it has taught us that our world is becoming more complex and that we must be prepared for unexpected events, such as this severe pandemic. From this case, it is evident that many poor people all over the world have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19; as a result, surviving during this adversity is not easy for them.

Since the first outbreak of the COVID in early 2020, Thailand has been on lockdown and un-lockdown alternately. The closure of the country’s borders has not allowed foreigners to enter the country. This is to prevent the COVID-19 infection from spreading throughout Thailand. Nonetheless, the country’s closure has resulted in a slew of issues, including a drop in GDP growth.

According to the World Bank, Thailand’s economy is still suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to grow at a low 2.2 per cent in 2021, down from the 3.4 per cent anticipated in March of the same year. It is obvious that due to this pandemic, the country’s growth could be that surprising. Nonetheless, it is not only Thailand that couldn’t achieve its expected growth but also many other countries worldwide. If we focus specifically on the ASEAN countries, most countries are facing the same situation; the GDP growth projection has dropped this year compared to last year’s. Indonesia is one of the countries that have been facing this slow growth because of the pandemic, the GDP Growth Rate Projection of Pre-COVID was 6.0 per cent and has dropped to 3.2 per cent for this year.

Apart from affecting the country’s GDP growth, it is undeniable that it also heavily affects people in the country. There is a wide range of impacts on people, especially vulnerable people, poor people, informal workers, etc. Many Thai people lost their jobs and returned home without money to feed their families. This is a bad thing that happens to them. Poor people have been affected heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic; many could not find work during these times. During the country lockdown, many informal workers such as street vendors were not allowed to go outside of their houses; thus, this badly affected their lives to find money to feed their families.

Moreover, this also led to unemployment issues in the country, not only in Thailand but also in other countries across the world. For Thailand’s case, the unemployment rate of this year was likely to reach 2.5% in the second quarter, representing about 937,500 unemployed workers, up from 1.96% in the first quarter, representing 758,000 unemployed workers. Therefore, it is obvious that the COVID-19 has impacted the country in many ways. Thus, the government should take action to help their people to overcome these hardships during the pandemic.

Thailand has shown a satisfying solution for this issue. The Thai government has come and played a critical role in helping people who have been suffering from this pandemic’s negative impacts. There are some financial schemes or programmes that were released by the Thai government to help the Thai people. One of those is the Kon La Krueng (Half-Half) co-payment scheme which is a project that the Government expects to stimulate domestic consumption and boost the economy by giving pocket money to Thai successful registrants.

The first phase of this project began on October 16, 2020, with payment beginning on October 23 – December 31, 2020. Registration for the second phase began on December 16, 2020, and payments were accepted from January 1 – March 31, 2021. While the third phase, round 1, opened for registration on June 14, 2021, the payment period ran from July 1 – December 31, and the second round’s phase 3 registration ran from October 16 – December 31, 2021, the payment period ran from October 4, 2021, to December 31, 2021.

For eligible and successful registrants above the age of 18 who are not state welfare or other financial scheme cardholders, the government provides 8,000 Baht. The length of time it takes to pay varies. If she or he had fully registered for the first phase, she or he will earn 3,000 Baht and an additional 500 Baht for the second phase without having to re-register. As a result, the total cost is 3,500 Baht. In phase 2, new registrants will receive a total of 3,500 Baht right away. And for phase 3, everyone will earn an additional 4,5000 Baht, with the first 1,500 Baht being given out during round 1’s phase 3 and the remaining 3,000 Baht being given out at round 2’s phase 3 on October 1 and November 1.

There are roughly 43 million registrants for all three phases of this financial scheme, which allows both sellers and buyers to register and take a critical benefit from this financial support from the government. Only food, beverages, general items, and service charges (massage, spa, manicure and pedicure, public transportation) are permitted to be sold under this scheme. Every purchase will be subsidized by the government to the tune of 50%. A successful registrant is permitted to spend the scheme subsidy at a rate of not more than 150 Baht per day or no more than 300 Baht for the shared cost. Every payment will be made through the Pautang G Wallet application.

Kon La Krueng (Half-Half) Co-payment Scheme has helped both consumers and local vendors positively across the country. Local businesses are growing as the money is spent in the local community which is positively affecting the local economic growth. Many vendors are also benefiting from this project; it grows local business and higher the consumption of local businesses. Moreover, it is promoting a cashless society as those involved with this scheme will have to pay online through G Wallet in the Pautang application. So, this is a change in people’s behaviour and adaptability toward a cashless society. From all this, it is undeniable that the government spending through this half-half scheme has grown the local consumption across the region and the nation positively.  The government spending on the half-half scheme for phase 3, round 2 (October – November) has increased the country’s GDP to 0.24 per cent. This means that this financial scheme has increased national consumption which positively affects GDP growth.

The spending behaviour of Thai people through this scheme during this pandemic is increasing, particularly local consumption across the country. This has a beneficial impact on overall national consumption. Local companies are flourishing, and local vendors can generate more income. Nevertheless, this consumption behaviour leads to some concerns about sustainable consumption. People are delighted while spending their money on common necessities, which can lead to rapid consumption both locally and nationally. As a result, the government may need to consider sustainable consumption so that people are more conscious of it, particularly their rapid consumption during this scheme, which may influence their negative money-spending behaviour and less sustainable daily consumption.

To conclude, the Kon La Krueng co-payment scheme provided by the Thai government has helped Thai people to consume more which is benefiting most Thai people in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, it helps increase the GDP growth, particularly from national consumption and government spending. Nevertheless, this rapid consumption of Thai people during this pandemic has arisen some concerns, particularly sustainability in which the government should promote this awareness so that people will be more aware of their daily consumption behaviour.

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Southeast Asia

Vietnam’s President Phuc visit to Switzerland and Russia



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Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited Switzerland and Russia(November25-December 2) to promote his country’s bilateral ties with the two countries. During the visit to Switzerland, the Vietnamese president initiated a link between the Swiss state and Vietnam. For Vietnam, which has already ordered and administered eight different vaccines in its country to protect its citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic, the need is to procure more vaccines. The immediate urgency is to get medical equipment and to import resuscitation supporting machines so that critically ill patients should be saved. In terms of medical equipment and diagnostics procedures, Switzerland is one of the foremost countries for research in fields of diagnostics, pharmacy, lifesaving medicines and new kinds of vaccine development. Vietnam has been facing immense threat from the new variants of COVID-19 and related complications. The country is looking for conclusion of free trade agreement with European free trade association. The European Free Trade Association comprises of Norway, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein, There are also immense possibilities of improving the trade basket between the two trade partners. Vietnam is slowly emerging as an alternate manufacturing destination too.

The total volume of trade between Vietnam and Switzerland is more than 3.5 billion U.S. dollars. Vietnam which was the permanent member of the UN Security Council for the year 2020-21 is looking for developing better understanding and greater participation in international institutions such as United Nations, its affiliate organizations and the World Trade Organization(WTO).

Switzerland is also one of the enticing destinations for Vietnamese travelers and it is expected that there might be possibility of more flights between the two countries. During the visit to Switzerland discussions were held also with regard to promoting defence relations, interaction between the legal bodies of the two countries, promoting science and technology interactions between different institutions, encouraging investment from Switzerland to Vietnam, and also celebrating five decades of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Phuc concluded his visit to Switzerland on November 29th and went to Moscow to hold meetings with its counterpart Vladimir Putin. 

During the visit to Russia, the two sides discussed areas to promote further cooperation in realizing the true potential of comprehensive strategic partnership and developing coordination in areas such as humanitarian and disaster relief. One of the important milestones during the visit of President Phuc has been the signing of bilateral agreement on vaccine production so that Sputnik V could be produced in Vietnam. The agreement which was signed between Vabiotech and Russian Direct Investment Fund(RDIF) would promote development of Sputnik V vaccine research in Vietnam, and developing resilient supply chains within Vietnam so that the vaccine can be produced in that country. One of the interesting aspects of this agreement is development of a Research Center and a small lab to look into efficacy of the vaccine and develop new formulations to counter the new variants of Coronavirus. Other prominent areas include developing cyber security architecture, exchange of cultural troupes, research in renewable energy and promoting sports between the two countries. Vietnam is emerging as one of the important sources for iron ore and therefore Vietnam now wants to diversify its vehicle manufacturing facility.

In fact, that Vietnam is increasingly reliant on Russia for its defence imports and in the past have imported sophisticated frigates, Sukhoi 30 aircraft, and Kilo class submarines. The growing defence relationship between the two sides is also expected to further expand in terms of sonar systems, supersonic missiles, air defence equipment, and training of sailors and technicians. 

Vietnam and Russia have a long-standing relationship even after the disintegration of the USSR. Russia has been very supportive of Vietnam efforts with regard to countering the three major powers which included France, the US, and China. The three Vietnam wars and the valor of the Vietnamese soldiers were much appreciated in erstwhile Soviet Union and thereafter by Russia. The historic ties  between the two countries was much appreciated and there has been much research which has been done with regard to cultural, historical, and political interactions between the two sides.

 The visit of President Phuc is seen as a new addition to the relationship as the president stated in one of the business interactions that the two sides should lift their trade by 15 times and also facilitate investment in each other’s countries. During one of these interactions, he clearly stated that Vietnam has emerged as one of the top 20 priority countries and therefore Russian investors should look forward for investing in Vietnam. He urged the Russian companies to capitalize on the free trade agreements that Vietnam has signed with Eurasian Economic Union and also understand the liberalization measures that Vietnam has undertaken in the recent past.

In the joint statement, which was released between the two sides it was clearly articulated that there is mutual respect and friendship between the two countries. The foundation of this relationship has been through mutual trust, territorial integrity, right to self-determination, and no use or threat of force against each other. The joint statement clearly stated that the two countries will work together in the field of security, military interaction, defence, and developing new technologies in defence sector. In the joint statement it was also stated that the two sides should work on capability planning, training, developing better science and technology cooperation, and forge strategic partnership in areas such as international law and promote interactions in UN agencies. The joint statement also alluded to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea(UNCLOS) and it was particularly important in the context of developing issues in South China Sea. 

President Phuc used his diplomatic acumen to issue a joint statement in which there was clear reference with regard to developments in South China Sea. Russia supported Vietnam’s endeavor for full and effective implementation of the Declaration of the Code of Conduct of the South China Sea parties (DOC) under the 2002 agreement. Another important aspect was looking into sectors for promoting ASEAN Russia relationship and realize the potential of the comprehensive action plan between the two sides. The visit to Switzerland and Russia was effective and it met the objectives which were laid out in terms of achievements and new ideas which would be put into practice for the future. 

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Southeast Asia

Local Wisdom Brings Everybody Towards Sustainability



Me and the Bajo kids posing with clamshell powder. Source: Author’s Collection

Climate change, carbon emission, zero waste, circular economy, and sustainability. If you are anywhere on the internet just like 62% of the world’s population, chances are you must be familiar, have understood, or at least have heard of these 21st century buzzwords. If you Google search the word ‘sustainable’, it would give you more results than if you search for ‘Titanic’, ‘globalization’, even ‘BTS’. Clearly, people all around the world has been putting more and more attention towards the concept of sustainability.

The question is, how well do we understand sustainability? What is being sustainable in development, business, and life in general entail?

Sustainability concepts were built on the foundation of protecting the resources of the Earth and the wellbeing of humankind which are negatively impacted by our abusive patterns of production and consumption. The Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in its highly-cited Brundtland Report, also called Our Common Future, formally defined sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own need. The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) first coined by John Elkington in 1994 is the fundamental concept in business to balance Profit, People, and Planet[1]. The concept really gained its momentum when the United Nations (UN) in 2015 set out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be adopted and achieved through global partnership by its Member States in 2030.

As a way of thinking, however, balancing wealth, society, and the environment has actually been a part of traditional belief systems, religious teachings, medieval philosophies, and communal ways of living for centuries. Indigenous people all over the world for years have developed and for the most part maintained cultural knowledge, norms, and rules that stem from the adaptation process to the environment, commonly referred to as the local wisdom. Long before the natural, organic, free-this-and-that-synthetic skincare boom, People of Bajo or the Sea Gypsies community have been harnessing the ingredients provided by Earth as their recipe to having healthy and firm skin despite being out in the sea under the sun for most of the time. They would make use of the clams’ shells or rice grain mixed with herbs like turmeric to make powder that would protect their skin from the scorching sun.

Local wisdom is also at the heart of many customary rules, including activities to manage their natural resources. For instance, many indigenous coastal communities in Eastern Indonesia implement Sasi Laut that would only allow fishing in certain areas for around two weeks to three months and close for one to two years. This local wisdom embodies the concept of marine conservation and has been passed down from generation to generation. Globally, indigenous people that constitutes less than 5% of the world’s population is protecting around 80% of the planet’s biodiversity.

Moreover, economic, environmental and social issues come in different form and intensity in different countries and communities. It might be pollution for urban area, declining water quality for tourism destination, or the non-existence of proper waste management system for rural area. Thus, achieving sustainability would require a bottom-up approach in identifying the most pressing problem in a particular country or community. The integration of local wisdom would contextualize the existing varied frameworks, concepts, tools, and innovations on sustainability to be positively perceived, better understood, and well implemented. It is the bridge to include the less represented voice, common people, and indigenous communities to be parts of climate and sustainability conversation; making sure to leave no one behind.

[1] Elkington, J. (1998). Cannibals with forks: The triple bottom line of 21st century business. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

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