At the seminar, experts said that although the global Covid-19 pandemic has been basically controlled so far, the epidemic situation is still very complicated and unpredictable. SARS-CoV-2 is still constantly changing with new sub-variants that are more contagious and difficult to identify; therefore, experts predicted an increase in severe cases as well as mortality.
Omicron is a popular variant in the world today, but it is not the final variant yet. According to the experts’ assessment, it is still possible for a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 to appear, causing an increase in cases of severe symptoms or deaths, especially in vulnerable groups.
In order to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccines are still considered as one of the most effective and important strategic weapons to protect the health and lives of people and communities.
In reality, over the past time, vaccines have proven to be effective in disease prevention in the country in particular and in countries around the world in general. However, the protective immunity acquired from the combination of a Covid-19 infection followed by vaccination – called hybrid immunity – is very potent and remains effective for more than a year and decreases over time.
Therefore, booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine are necessary to prevent disease or re-infection to minimize infection cases with unpredictable new variations.
According to some international organizations, variants BA.4 and BA.5 are likely to increase the number of infected people requiring hospitalization or death. This will put pressure on the health of each country as well as globally.
Dr. Socorro Escalante, Acting Chief Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Vietnam, said that the vaccine currently in use by Vietnam is also effective against variants BA.4 and BA.5.
Therefore, the Vietnamese government has kept recommending that people get booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccine. Regarding the virulence of variants BA.4 and BA.5, Dr. Socorro Escalante said, what we know at the moment is that the variants BA.4 and BA.5 spread quickly.
Dr. Socorro Escalante also emphasized that when the virus is still circulating, it is highly likely that new variants will appear, so vaccination plays an important role in preventing them, especially for those who have not been vaccinated or those who have not received enough doses, and the elderly. Vietnamese government needs a solution to bring vaccines to high-risk areas, to protect the community. She emphasized that a vaccine is the most effective way in preventing coronavirus disease.
Professor Phan Trong Lan, Director of the Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health also said, according to WHO, sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 spread faster than the variants BA.1, BA.2. These two variants can escape immunity which means that people who have had BA.1, BA.2 can still get BA.4, BA.5 again. Up to now, after 4-6 months, many Vietnamese people have had all the basic vaccine shots.
Thus, the immunity of these people has decreased, and the immunocompromised people and the elderly have decreased even more. Therefore, they need to be vaccinated again on schedule, at the right dose, which is very important to maintain immunity and avoid epidemic invasion. Along with that, frontline health workers who are at high risk should get vaccine shots.
According to Associate Professor Tran Minh Dien, Director of the National Children's Hospital, the variant BA.4 and BA.5 has spread rapidly globally including six regions under WHO’s surveillance. In the past week, the variants BA.4 and BA.5 accounted for 55 percent of the total global sample. This is a worrying issue. If the two variants spread quickly to the community, then children are at high risk of contracting the virus, and at the same time being a source of infection for the elderly and other adults because children’s awareness of the disease is less than that of adults.
Currently, the Ministry of Health is continuing to recommend that children aged 12-17 years get the third disease of the Covid-19 vaccine and the group of 5-11-year-olds gets the first and second shots. This is one of the necessary issues to create community immunity.