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UPDATE 1-Vietnam asks for foreign support in procuring COVID-19 vaccines

(Adds vaccination target by year-end)

HANOI, April 2 (Reuters) - Vietnam has appealed to diplomats from the United States, European Union and Japan to help it secure supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, as part of efforts to acquire the 150 million doses needed to cover its adult population.

Vietnam has received about 930,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine so far but wants to procure doses from Pfizer , Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, China’s Sinovac, and Russia’s Sputnik V shot.

Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long on Thursday asked Japan’s embassy for help with technology transfer for vaccine production and testing in Vietnam, the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Long also asked the U.S. ambassador for help with accelerating Vietnam’s inoculation programme and securing access to vaccines from U.S. drugmakers, and told EU representatives he hoped European pharmaceutical firms would consider more investment in Vietnam, the statement said

The meetings came a day after Long on Wednesday met with Chinese, Indian and Russian diplomats to discuss vaccines.

Vietnam has been praised for its record in containing coronavirus outbreaks through mass testing, tracing and strict quarantine, with the country recording just 2,620 cases and 35 deaths.

It aims to immunise 70% of its population and has so far inoculated 51,200 people. The request for help come as some countries express concern about vaccine shortages.

The Ministry of Health said separately that Vietnam aims to vaccinate a fifth of its 98 million people against COVID-19 by the end of the year.

It said the country would receive 4.1 million vaccine doses via the COVAX global vaccine sharing facility by the end of May.

Four Vietnamese companies are engaged in vaccine research and production and two are at the human trial stage. Its first domestic shot called Nanocovax is expected to be put into use in 2022.

Reporting by Phuong Nguyen; Additional reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Martin Petty, Kirsten Donovan

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