Japan sends 1 million free vaccines to Vietnam, prepares more for other ASEAN countries

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On June 16, Japan sent 1 million doses of free COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam. The vaccines, shipped via Japanese Haneda Airport on the outskirts of Tokyo, arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, just after 10 p.m. local time on the same day.

According to NHK, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chin thanked Japan through the local Japanese Embassy on the morning of June 15, saying, “On behalf of the people and government of Vietnam, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Prime Minister. Minister and the people of Japan. “

He continues: “It’s a gift at the right time, which shows the power to share in difficult times. I would like to make the most of it.

The plan is to use the vaccine primarily in Ho Chi Minh City, a business center that has seen a particular spike in new infections.

This is the second time that Japan has shipped vaccines directly to an Asian neighbor, after sending 1.24 million vaccines to Taiwan on June 4.

Vaccinations using doses sent from Japan began in Taiwan on June 15, as President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted the same day in Japanese with the news, saying “Thank you, Japan!

It comes after Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced at a press conference on June 15 that Japan intends to send the vaccines to Vietnam, followed by vaccine shipments to Indonesia, Thailand, in the Philippines and Malaysia in July.

Japan is sending doses of the domestically produced AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been approved for use in Japan but has not yet been scheduled for use as part of the country’s vaccines.

At the same press conference, the Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the possibility of sending other vaccines to Taiwan and Vietnam. Both of these countries handled COVID-19 well in the early stages of the pandemic, but recent months have seen an increase in new infections from variants of the virus.

Asked about the timing of the decision to share the vaccine, the Foreign Minister explained: “We came to this conclusion by looking at the situation globally, given the state of contagion in Japan, the lack of vaccines in countries related to Japan.

Vietnam, with a population of 97 million, had vaccinated just 1.6 percent of its population as of June 16, the lowest level in Southeast Asia.

Motegi commented on June 15: “We need to prioritize speed and use a direct send method. [the vaccine] when it comes to countries with worsening infection conditions. “

He continued, discussing the prospects of sharing the vaccine with other Southeast Asian countries that are part of ASEAN, such as Indonesia, saying, “The relationship between ASEAN and Japan is all important. These are countries that are essential to the achievement of the “free and open Indo-Pacific” advocated by Japan.

The move clearly runs counter to vaccine diplomacy initiatives by China, which has been accused of using the distribution of domestically produced vaccines to gain influence in the region.

Bilateral vaccine agreements, such as those with Vietnam and Taiwan, are separate from the COVAX vaccine sharing pool. Japan has also pledged to share 30 million doses of the vaccine through COVAX.

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Author: Arielle Busetto


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