Immunization stories: Vietnamese expats in China get Covid vaccines

On the morning of April 13 authorities in Beijing’s Daxing District asked all foreigners living around the Tiangong Yuan subway station to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

A bus carried Doan Thi Quynh, her mother and many other foreigners to a medical center about 15 km away. There were 30-40 people waiting in line for the vaccine that day. Everyone was wearing masks and keeping a safe distance from each other. The medical center was spacious and had friendly staff.

Quynh, 35, got vaccinated for free because she has an insurance card and a permanent resident ID card. The native of Quang Ninh Province studied in a university in Beijing, married a Chinese man, and has been living in the capital for more than eight years.

Doan Thi Vui, 59, Quynh's mother, went to Beijing to visit her granddaughter and daughter at the beginning of 2020 and has been stuck there.

Since she has no insurance she had to pay 186 yuan ($29.1) for two shots of the Sinopharm vaccine.

She says: "Before getting the jab, I was a little hesitant because the foreign media had reported that the Chinese vaccine causes serious side effects. When I asked the Chinese doctor, they explained that every vaccine has side effects, severe or mild, since everyone reacts differently to a vaccine.

"They said people with allergies, pregnant women, those who intend to get pregnant, breastfeeding women, and people with serious illnesses and chronic diseases need to notify the doctor first for thorough advice."

After the first vaccine, Quynh only felt a bit tired. Her mother had pain in the injected area, and had a headache and was tired on the second day, but became normal after that.

On May 8 they went for their second shot.

"I feel very safe now," Quynh said.

A post-doctoral researcher from Tsinghua University, Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, 36, the only Vietnamese working in China’s Institute for Economic and Social Research (IESR), is also among the foreigners in Beijing to be vaccinated.

"The Beijing government requires everyone to get vaccinated, especially those who work in the education system," the Hai Phong City native said.

She has had both shots, and only felt a slight pain in her upper arm but no other side effects.

China had administered 497.3 million doses as of May 22, the largest number in the world and far ahead of the second-ranked country, the U.S. (283.94 million), according to its National Health Commission (NHC).

The Chinese government encourages people to participate in the national immunization program free of charge, aiming to fully vaccinate 40 percent of the population, or 560 million people, by the end of June.

The NHC said a lot of people want the vaccine, leading to a temporary shortage.

In Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, the government had to stop vaccination on May 22 due to the shortage.

In Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, Nguyen Phuong Giang, 34, said 30 percent of people in the province have been vaccinated.

She, her husband and children have been waiting for their turn since early March, she said.

"I'm looking forward to the shots because I want to go back to Hai Phong for some personal work. I also miss the food."

Dr Thu Ha has the same desire.

"A lot of my projects in Vietnam are still waiting to be completed. I hope the people of the two countries will soon be vaccinated and acquire herd immunity so that trade and travel between the two countries [can resume]."

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