One year on, Vietnamese medicine matures alongside successful COVID-19 fight

Sunday, 2021-02-28 15:37:34
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Medical staff take samples for COVID-19 screening from local people in epidemic hit areas in Hai Duong province. (Photo: NDO/Hoang Van Trung)
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NDO – Vietnam has been hailed around the world as a bright spot in successfully implementing the "dual goals" of effectively fighting against COVID-19 while boosting its economic development. For the health sector, 2020 was full of hardships and dangers, but also a year marking a multi-faceted process of maturity.

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From the first cases of COVID-19 infections being detected, under the direction of the Party, the Government and the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control, the health sector has actively coordinated with the relevant ministries, agencies and localities in carrying out drastic, vigorous, prompt and effective epidemic prevention and control measures. The sector has proactively advised and built fully and in detail documents and professional instructions, while always preparing adequate human resources, equipment, drugs, materials and chemicals to ensure the work is effective. Outbreaks were quickly zoned and handled in a timely manner, leading to the number of infections totalling a very small number compared to the population size.

The health sector perseveres with its policy of isolating close contacts and taking samples from them to immediately remove pathogens from the community and prevent the spread of infection. Vietnam's quarantine mechanism is designed in detail to ensure that all infected, suspected infected and close contacts are isolated. In addition to requiring everyone to be centrally isolated for at least 14 days upon entry into the country, from the very beginning, the four-ring quarantine mechanism has been implemented, helping cut off and effectively prevent outbreaks in a relatively short space of time.

The pandemic control has also shown the growth of Vietnam’s testing system. As of February 2021, Vietnam had carried out COVID19 testing on more than 2.2 million samples in 96 confirmed units. Such testing capacity can completely respond to epidemic outbreaks on a large scale.

In terms of treatment, the division of subjects for effective treatment has been strictly maintained, helping prevent too many positive cases from flocking to major hospitals. COVID-19 infected cases found in any locality are treated by local physicians. The Ministry of Health also continuously updates treatment regimens and establishes remote examination and treatment systems with leading experts supporting the lower levels, along with rapid response mobile teams. To date, many district health facilities have received and treated COVID-19 patients, helping many recover from the deadly disease.

Precision in logistics is also an important factor helping Vietnam defeat the pandemic. The health sector has coordinated with the concerned ministries, agencies and localities to proactively prepare the necessary logistics, including all medical equipment, consumables, biological products, face masks and protective equipment to form a solid premise for the epidemic response. A lot of domestically produced equipment has been donated to other countries in the spirit of a joint effort to fight COVID-19.

From February 2020, when the first COVID-19 infections appeared in Vietnam, experts from the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology successfully cultured and isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their labs. Vietnam became one of four countries in the world at that time able to do this. It helped identify "the enemy" while at the same time was a prerequisite for the research and development of testing products as well as vaccines for disease prevention.

Notably, up to now, Vietnam has four manufacturers participating in the research and production of COVID-19 vaccines, of which three have developed official products (one having been put into Phase 2 of clinical trials with two others in preparation for Phase 1). It is expected that in early 2022, Vietnam will have an official home-grown COVID-19 vaccine to put into use, helping it hold the initiative in the fight against COVID-19.

Over the past year, the "four onsite" anti-epidemic motto (on-site command, on-site forces, on-site equipment and materials, and on-site logistics) has always been focussed upon and achieved good results. In addition to the National Steering Committee, there are 63 Steering Committees for the prevention and fight against COVID-19 at provincial and municipal levels, while district, commune, and ward levels have mobilised all departments, branches and units concerned to participate in the fight to ensure the comprehensive implementation of epidemic prevention measures proposed by Steering Committees and suitable for local conditions. On the other hand, the community-based COVID-19 response model is also a unique one. Tens of thousands of such groups have been established in localities across the nation and have brought into full play the combined strength of local government and the consciousness of the people in quickly stopping outbreaks.

"Unprecedented" solutions deployed by the health sector in response to the COVID-19 epidemic have brought about great results. Hundreds of physicians, leading experts at the top national institutes and hospitals, such as National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Bach Mai Hospital, National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Hanoi Medical University Hospital and Cho Ray Hospital, have been sent to hot spots in Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, Dien Bien and Hai Duong. Some medical centres, even sports complexes, have been turned into field hospitals to receive COVID-19 patients for treatment. Continuous nationwide online medical conferences with the participation of leading experts from across the country have been organised, providing timely professional support to lower level doctors and promptly helping many critically-ill COVID-19 patients recover.

The battle against COVID-19 will continue, but with the health sector's maturity and its accumulated anti-epidemic experience, we can once again believe that victory belongs to Vietnam.