Vietnamese state says COVID - 19 vaccination drive 'too slow'

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HANOI, Aug 3 - Vietnam's COVID - 19 vaccination drive has been too slow in many areas, state media quoted the health minister as saying on Tuesday, as the Southeast Asian nation battles its worst coronavirus outbreak yet.

Vietnam successfully contained coronavirus for most of last year, but a delta-driven outbreak that has infected more than 160,000 people since late April has increased pressure on authorities for a faster vaccination rollout.

Vaccination is now a priority and urgent task for localities, Vietnam News Agency was quoted as saying by Nguyen Thanh Long.

Since its first vaccination campaign, health ministry data showed Vietnam has vaccinated about 700,000 people, or less than 1% of the country's 98 - million people, since the rollout began in early March.

Seven million vaccine doses have been received, however, though this only accounted for 42.5% of the vaccine administered so far, according to the data.

The wave of infections has forced around a third of Vietnam's cities and provinces to enforce strict restrictions on movement, including at the epicentre Ho Chi Minh City and capital Hanoi.

The government last week said it would accelerate its vaccination campaign in Ho Chi Minh City, adding that the city is switching to treatment to reduce the number of deaths.

The country's death toll of COVID 19 was 1,881 on Tuesday, according to the health ministry. More than 95% of the deaths recorded in the past month.

One of the state media which consolidated most its resources on contact tracing and quarantining in the earlier outbreaks is set to approve Gilead Sciences Inc's antiviral drug remdesivir for the treatment of patients who have contracted coronavirus, on Tuesday.

The country is expected to get 500,000 remdesivir tablets soon and is also considering approving favipiravir, a drug which has also been shown to be effective in countering COVID-19 - 19, the health ministry said in an earlier statement.