Le Dong Hai Nguyen

M.S. Candidate in Foreign Service

Was Vietnam’s Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine Debacle Just a Stunt?

Le Dong Hai Nguyen | September 13, 2021

There’s hardly any populace on Earth that is more anti-China than the Vietnamese. Several millennia of wars and border skirmishes, from a thousand years under Chinese rule to today’s disputes over the South China Sea, have ensured in Vietnam a deep distrust of its ideologically and culturally proximate neighbor.

This mistrust burst into the open recently when Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city, became the beneficiary of a corporate “donation” of five million doses of Vero Cell vaccines produced by China National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation (Sinopharm).

On July 31, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health announced that 1 million of the donated Chinese doses would soon enter the vaccine portfolio of Ho Chi Minh City, where a spike of COVID-19 infections has sent the city back into lockdown and prompted the near-collapse of its medical facilities. Google searches for topics such as “penalty for refusing vaccination” and “is it okay to not vaccinate” surged among the city residents. This is in direct contrast with a study published in February this year in The Lancet, which attributes Vietnam with the highest vaccine acceptance rate in the world.