HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam received the first batch of 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday ahead of the planned rollout of the Southeast Asian country's immunisation programme from next month.
The vaccines, which arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on a flight from South Korea, will be used to inoculate more than 50,000 people who are seen as high risk, the government said in a statement.
Deputy health minister, Truong Quoc Cuong, was at the airport to meet the consignment of vaccines flown in from Seoul, according to media.
South Korea's SK Bioscience has a plant that has been approved to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Vietnam aims to obtain 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses this year, including 30 million through the COVAX international vaccine-share scheme, 30 million from AstraZeneca and the rest from negotiations with Pfizer, its health ministry said.
The government said the batch that arrived on Wednesday was part of the 30 million doses to be brought in by the Vietnam Vaccine Joint Stock Co., a firm set up to handle vaccine import and distribution.
The country expects to receive 1.3 million more doses by the end of March and 9.5 million doses in the second quarter.
It hopes to receive 25.9 million doses and 51.1 million doses in the third and final quarters respectively.
"We can assure that we have enough vaccines for the COVID-19 vaccination programme," the health ministry said in a statement.
Vietnam was lauded globally for its record in containing the virus for long stints last year through mass testing and tracing and strict quarantining, though it has faced a recent wave of infections.
The country has recorded 820 new COVID-19 cases since the latest outbreak started last month, or about a third of its overall caseload of 2,412 infections. It has reported just 35 deaths due to the virus.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Ed Davies, Martin Petty)