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Vietnam Approves 8th Vaccine; Big Win for Factories?

Vietnam has a new weapon in the fight against Covid-19 and its ensuring lockdowns and factory closures.

On Friday, the country’s Ministry of Health granted emergency approval of Cuba’s Abdala Covid-19 vaccine, the eighth Covid-19 inoculum approved for emergency use in Vietnam.

The government will initially purchase 10 million doses, on top of last week’s decision to supplement budget to procure 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

According to reports from VN Express International as of Sunday, the country has administered at least 27.9 million vaccine doses so far, with only 6.18 million people (6.6 percent) getting two doses to be fully vaccinated.

In August, the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) reported that the outbreak had forced about one-third of the country’s footwear and apparel factories to suspend operations, which also put more than 3 million garment workers out of work. The closures have done a number on the sectors’ supply chains, namely since so many brands source their products in Vietnam. Overall, shipments from the Southeast Asian country to the U.S. were down 8 percent to 359.72 million square meter equivalents (SME) in July compared to a year earlier, according to Commerce Department’s Office of Textiles & Apparel (OTEXA).

Camilo Lyon, a financial analyst at the investment firm BTIG, estimated that Nike would lose 160 million pairs of shoes in 2021 to the pandemic-induced halt on manufacturing throughout the country. Lululemon said the outbreaks impact as much as 20 percent of its second-half inventory.

Brands and retailers such as Uniqlo, Abercrombie & Fitch, Caleres, Dick’s, Crocs, Adidas and Under Armour have warned of production delays or expect further impact from the closures. Any efforts that would get factories up and running would mitigate some of the uncertainty around second-half inventory, but brands will still have to handle the bevy of other supply chain concerns, such as continually rising shipping costs, low container capacity and port congestion.

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Aside from potential factory reopenings, health data seems to indicate that the pandemic might be moving in the right direction. The average number of Covid-19 deaths reported each day in Vietnam fell by more than 100 over the last three weeks, 26 percent of its previous peak, according to the Reuters Covid Tracker. And infections are declining as well, with 10,171 new infections reported on average each day, or 74 percent of the peak on Sept. 2. Vietnam’s health ministry, meanwhile, confirmed 8,681 cases Monday.

The Vietnamese government has sought to accelerate vaccinations, particularly in critical economic zones. On Sept. 5, the administration set a deadline for all adult residents in Ho Chi Minh City, the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak, as well as the capital of Hanoi, to have at least one shot by Sept. 15.

Government regulations were already in place as factory suspended operations, with the country allowing facilities to stay open as long as they followed a “3 on-site” rule that required working, eating and sleeping to occur on premises.

The regime has sought to alleviate the supply chain’s constraints in other ways, with state-owned Vietnam Railways (VNR) opening a new direct rail freight from Hanoi to Belgium in July that can carries shipping containers filled with garments, textiles and leather shoes.

Cuba first approved emergency use of the Abdala vaccine on July 9 after manufacturers announced in June that the vaccine was more than 92 percent effective when three doses were given. The Abdala vaccine, technically named CIGB-66, is developed by Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

Abdala is the eighth Covid-19 vaccine approved for emergency use in Vietnam, following AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sputnik V, Sinopharm and Hayat-Vax. Vietnam hopes to secure 150 million doses to cover 70 percent of its 96 million population.

Vietnam said it would start producing the Abdala vaccine after its Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals (IVAC) receives the necessary production technology.