Vietnam to give Chinese nationals priority for Covid-19 jabs after complaint, embassy says

PHOTO: Reuters

Vietnam has agreed to give Chinese nationals in the country priority for its latest shipment of Covid-19 jabs after a complaint from China, according to its embassy in Hanoi.

It comes after China donated 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to its southern neighbour, which arrived in Hanoi on Sunday.

Vietnam's health ministry on Wednesday said the doses would be sent to nine northern provinces for "Vietnamese people living in communities neighbouring China, people who engage in trade and service exchanges with China, and Chinese nationals staying and working in Vietnam".

But the following day, the Chinese embassy in Hanoi said Vietnam had broken its promise to give priority to Chinese nationals and that they should be vaccinated ahead of the other groups.

"According to the consensus of China and Vietnam, the Vietnamese government has made repeated pledges that the vaccines given by China would first go to Chinese people in Vietnam, Vietnamese people who have plans to work in China, and Vietnamese people living near the Chinese border," the embassy said in a statement.

"The Vietnamese authorities did not liaise with China according to the above consensus before announcing the distribution plan."

The embassy said it had "immediately expressed" its concerns and that the Vietnamese authorities had agreed to withdraw the plan.

Vietnam has yet to make a new announcement about vaccine distribution

The embassy also said it would continue to push forward China's "Spring Sprout" programme in Vietnam. The programme — a global campaign to inoculate Chinese nationals living and working abroad — covers 120 countries, according to state media reports.

Read Also
Vietnam receives 500,000 Sinopharm doses from China for select groups
Vietnam receives 500,000 Sinopharm doses from China for select groups

Relations between China and Vietnam have been strained in recent years over their territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea.

Compared to other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members, Vietnam has been slow to approve Chinese Covid-19 vaccines. It only approved the Sinopharm vaccine on June 4 as it was battling a rising number of infections that peaked in the middle of June, when the country was reporting more than 400 new cases a day.

Vietnam had earlier approved the use of the AstraZeneca jab and Russia's Sputnik vaccine.

The country's vaccination rate is low — only 1.4 per cent of its 96 million people have received a jab — and it is trying to secure more doses.

On Friday, Japan said it would donate an additional 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, on top of the 1 million it had already sent.

The Vietnamese government said it had secured 120 million doses this year, including shipments of the Moderna, Sputnik V, AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs and vaccines from the global Covax Facility backed by the World Health Organisation.

The Chinese embassy statement has fuelled nationalistic outrage on social media over Vietnam's planned distribution of vaccines. On Friday, the hashtag "Vietnamese government failed to honour Chinese first promise" had been viewed more than 450 million times on Twitter-like platform Weibo.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post