Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 04:19 (GMT+7)

Wednesday, August 04, 2021, 08:01 (GMT+7)
Military Medical Force plays a vanguard role in the fight against COVID-19

The highly contagious respiratory disease caused by  the SARS-CoV-2 virus, aka COVID-19, has been spreading on a global scale. This is a new, dangerous epidemic capable of spreading rapidly. There has not been any special treatment for this type of disease. Being fully aware of the epidemic’s negative impacts and its assigned function and task, the Military Medical Force (MMF) has brought into play its vanguard role in the fight against COVID-19 and greatly contributed to fulfilling the “dual goals” together with the entire Party, Military and people.

In late December 2019, China warned the world about a disease caused by an undiscovered virus, originating in the city of Wuhan, spreading at super speed, possibly turning into a global pandemic. In fact, COVID-19 has spread rapidly across countries with an exponential increase in cases, numerous variants, and extremely complicated developments. As of July 17th, 2021, 215 states and territories all over the world were swept by COVID-19 with over 191.1 million cases and more than 4.105 million deaths. 

Being acutely aware of the COVID-19 epidemic’s impacts, right after the first case of COVID-19 in the city of Ho Chi Minh (January 23rd, 2020), the General Secretary, the State President and the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat issued directing documents and urged all people to prevent and combat COVID-19. The Government established the National Steering Board on COVID-19 Prevention and Control, directed sectors and localities to found such boards, released many guiding documents, implemented COVID-19 prevention and control measures, and engaged the participation of the whole political system and people under the spirit of “fighting the epidemic like fighting the enemy.”

Under the Prime Minister’s direction, the Ministry of National Defence (MND) issued a Directive on COVID-19 prevention and control and considered it as a “combat mission” in peacetime, with the Military Medical Force playing a vanguard role to prevent the epidemic from spreading across the society and penetrating into military units, and minimise the number of deaths. As the Standing Agency of the MND’s Steering Board on COVID-19 Prevention and Control, the Military Medical Branch has opportunely given advice to the Central Military Commission, the MND and all-level party committees and commands on directing the entire Military to implement the “four on-the-spot” measures and strictly maintain the strategy of “early detection, timely quarantine, localisation, epidemic suppression, and effective treatment” so as to resolutely prevent COVID-19 from penetrating into military units. In addition, the MMF across the Military has quickly drastically adopted measures to prepare plans, projects, facilities, and scientific and medical human resources, organise situations-based exercises, take part in manufacturing and supplying medical equipment, and cooperate with offices of central committees, sectors and ministries as well as local party committees and authorities in determinedly preventing the epidemic from spreading across the society and penetrating into military units, thereby ensuring the Military’s combat power.

To meet the requirements set by COVID-19 prevention and control, the Military Medical Academy has quickly designed and distributed 10,000 leaflets entitled “100 questions and answers relating to the COVID-19 epidemic” to the entire people and Military. It has organised refresher courses on sampling and SARS-CoV-2 testing for hundreds of medical staff members from over 40 medical units across the Military, the hospital of Viet Duc and several disease control centres in Northern provinces in order to improve their knowledge, ensure safety during the sampling and testing process, and avoid cross-contamination amongst themselves. It is worth noting that the Military Medical Academy has succeeded in manufacturing COVID-19 RT-PCR test kits  in bulk  for COVID-19 prevention and control according to the international standards, recognised by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Medical staff members of the Military Hospital 175 deployed to the city of Ho Chi Minh for COVID-19 prevention and control (photo: benhvien175.vn)

In addition to COVID-19 prevention and control within the Military, the MMF has actively given advice and directly participated in this work to protect the people’s health, thus becoming a solid fulcrum of the Party, the State, and local authorities. It is worth mentioning the effort made by medical staff members of military regions, hospitals within field quarantine zones, and research centres. As of March 2021, the whole Military organised 175 large-scale quarantine zones for more than 217,000 citizens and readily deployed 154 mobile teams of COVID-19 prevention and control from military infirmaries and preventive medicine teams, engaged 14 specialised squads and 20 mobile teams of COVID-19 prevention and control in the Government’s quick reaction team, constructed 7 field hospitals with 2,800 beds, maintained 30 military hospitals with 2,429 beds, used 3 mobile teams and 429 mobile COVID-19 prevention and control squads and military medical squads for quarantine zones and units in charge of COVID-19 prevention and control.

Against the 4th wave of COVID-19, since May 2021, under the direction of the MND, the Military Medical Academy, the Vietnam-Russia Tropical Centre, the Military Preventive Medicine Institute, the Military Hospital 354 and other relevant military medical units have actively taken part in assisting the provinces of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang in sampling and SARS-CoV-2 testing for workers of those localities’ industrial zones and constructing 2 field hospitals with a maximum of 500 bed for each to treat COVID-19 patients.

In the South, the Southern Military Preventive Medicine Institute as the Standing Agency of the Forward Command of the Military Medical Department has taken charge of directing the whole MMF in the Military Region 7 to provide support for the city of Ho Chi Minh. The Institute has assisted the city in testing COVID-19 for over 30,000 citizens and vaccinating more than 4,800 people. Additionally, it has been in charge of deploying staff members of the Vietnam-Russia Tropical Centre, the Military Medical Academy (within the city of Ho Chi Minh), the Military Hospital 175, and the Military Hospital 4 (under the Army Corps 4) to the local health facilities. The Eastern Military-Civilian Hospital under the Military Region 7 has also been transformed into a centre for treating COVID-19 patients.

The complex developments of the COVID-19 pandemic on a global and regional scale necessitate the joint effort from all countries; therefore, the MMF has quickly maintained international cooperation and performed its international mission in the fight against COVID-19. When undertaking the ASEAN Military Medicine Chairmanship, the Military Medical Department organised online meetings to develop plans and successfully held the ASEAN Military Medicine Exercise on COVID-19 prevention and control with the participation of ASEAN member states and 7 other countries, including Russia, the U.S., China, India, Japan, and New Zealand. It cooperated with the Military Medical Academy in organising an online meeting with China’s Military Medical Corps to share information and experience in COVID-19 prevention and control. Besides, the MMF actively collaborated with Cuba and Russia in exchanging experience in treating COVID-19 patients.

In response to the serious outbreak of COVID-19 in China, on February 22nd, 2020, the Military Medical Department presented the Ministry of National Defence of China with medical equipment of COVID-19 prevention and control. In addition to providing materials and means of COVID-19 prevention and control for the armed forces of Laos and Cambodia, the MMF deployed its experts to Laos in the fight against COVID-19. Moreover, the MMF has taken part in the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations. Up to now, Vietnam has deployed 126 military medical staff members to the United Nations South Sudan Mission. In the first half of 2020, the Level 2 Field Hospital No.2 in the South Sudan Mission received and treated nearly 1,000 patients, including some with severe diseases and one suspected case of COVID-19. All of those cases were successfully treated at the United Nations’ request. The United Nations highly appreciated results and measures of COVID-19 prevention and control by Vietnam’s Hospital and the peacekeeping force in Bentiu, South Sudan.

Bringing into play the spirit of self-reliance, the Military Medical Academy has cooperated with the Nanogen Pharmaceutical Biology Joint Stock Company in researching and developing NanoCovax vaccine to contribute to raising the effectiveness of COVID-19 prevention and control. With a sense of responsibility for the country and the society, after 6 months, on December 17th, 2020,  in phase 1 trials, at the Military Medical Academy, healthy volunteers got first NanoCovax jabs. Up to now, the Academy and the Company have been conducting phase 3 trials (including 3a and 3b) for over 13,000 volunteers and they will be about to carry out phase 3c trials for more than 1 million people. With those good outcomes, Vietnam is amongst a few countries in the world that have successfully developed COVID-19 vaccine. It is anticipated that by late 2021, Vietnam will have sufficient data of clinic study relating to this type of vaccine before deciding to launch a widespread vaccination programme.

It could be said that the MMF has really played a vanguard role in the fight against COVID-19, made contributions to bolstering the virtues and image of “Uncle Ho’s soldiers,” and provided an incentive for the whole Party, Military and people to realise the “dual goals” of economic development and COVID-19 combat, and maintain political security, social order and safety as well as a peaceful life for the people.

Maj., Dr LE THI HONG, Military Medical Academy  

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