Anxious parents made thousands of calls to 1080 in HCM City yesterday morning to register for getting the five-in-one Pentaxim vaccine for their children, but with each public health facility only geared to take in a limited number daily, many ended up disappointed.
The registration system has been started by the Department of Health in co-operation with Viet Nam Posts and Telecommunications Group following periodic bouts of shortages including one now.
The vaccine protects children from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and Haemophilus influenza type B.
A woman in District 5 with a 22-month-old daughter who is scheduled to get a booster shot said she called the number 594 times since 8am. She managed to reach the operator at nearly 11.30am, but was told the registration had been stopped for the day and she should call the next day.
"Will the vaccine be left tomorrow?" she asked Viet Nam News, worried and angry.
Many others were unable to get through to the number.
Dr Tang Chi Thuong, deputy head of the city's Department of Health, said there had been a shortage of the vaccine for long.
In Ha Noi last week, after hearing that vaccines had been imported and were available at local health facilities, many women were caught in a stampede at one facility as they scrambled to register, fearing the centre will run out of them soon.
The operators at 1080 are registering only 50 children per admission counter daily at each of the 76 health facilities in the city.
The safety of the children is paramount during the vaccination, Thuong added.
Quinvaxem, which protects against the same diseases –but against hepatitis B instead of polio — is provided free of cost under an expanded national immunisation programme. But, it has few takers among people who are not poor because there have been several baby deaths though none of it has been traced to the vaccine.
Health staff were tasked with assuring parents about Quinvaxem's safety and effectiveness so that they did not wait for the scarce Pentaxim, Thuong said.
Assoc Prof Dr Pham Khanh Phong Lan, another department deputy head, said Pentaxim costed VND720,000 (US$32) at public health facilities and hundreds of thousands of dong more at private ones.
Parents needed not worry since there were enough Pentaxim and 6-in-1 vaccines to last until the middle of next year, she said.
"We will learn from the shortages this year," she said, promising authorities would be pro-active in securing adequate supply in future.