Cablegate: Vietnam Avian Influenza Preparedeness

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

120951Z Sep 05




E.O. 12958: N/A


REF: State 153483

1. (SBU) Mission Vietnam is reporting on the Government of
Vietnam's (GVN) Avian Influenza (AI) Preparedness
capabilities and our answers are keyed to reftel

-- While preparing for an AI pandemic is a significant
concern, it is not currently the GVN's top priority. The
GVN is focused on joining the World Trade Organization; APEC
2006 Planning and Preparation; preparing the GVN's 2006-2010
Five Year Plan and for the Party Plenum. The Prime Minister
would have the influence to raise AI to a higher priority.

-- The GVN is currently working on developing an AI strategy
and preparedness plan for preventing AI from becoming a
pandemic. Until the plan is fully vetted and shared, Post
is unable to determine the GVN's capability to implement it.
Early indications from the United Nations technical team
assisting the GVN is that the plan under review is a good
first draft.

-- The GVN has no stockpile of antiviral medications, but
the Ministry of Health (MOH) is developing a surveillance
system with assistance from U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS). The MOH also has an ongoing program
to develop an AI human vaccine, again with assistance from
WHO and HHS.

-- Surveillance of poultry is improving, but there is a
shortage of trained personnel. The GVN admits that it needs
outside assistance to detect and respond to an outbreak,
whether in poultry or humans. In some cases, it may take up
to a week before a rural based AI patient comes to a
hospital for treatment.

-- The experience with SARS has shown the GVN the value of
transparency. The GVN is more forthcoming with information
now than it has been in the past. We expect that this trend
will continue, especially concerning AI-related cases in
country. However, the reports about the epidemiology of the
cases are still sketchy. In addition, leery of adverse
international press coverage, the GVN tightly restricts
dissemination of preliminary information on possible human
AI cases.

-- The Government is capable of imposing quarantines and
social distancing measures in an extreme emergency, but
would resist doing so as long as possible. Security
services have shown themselves capable of carrying out major
crowd control measures in urban areas, including denying
access to large sections of urban areas. They would be able
to apply these measures in a quarantine or social distancing
scenario. Of greater concern would be the speed which the
GVN acted to carry out these measures. Vietnam has a
consensus-based power structure that requires substantial
consultation before reaching any important conclusion. We
are not convinced that the GVN could act quickly on a mass
scale even in the event of a time-sensitive emergency.

-- Training, consultations, funding for public education,
antiviral and personal protective equipment are gaps that
need to be filled in order to enhance Vietnam's disease
detection capability. In addition, the GVN is in the pilot
stages of its poultry vaccination program which will cost
about USD 44 million over the next few months. For
additional information, please refer to the HHS/USAID/USDA
Assessment Plan.

-- GVN leaders would be most receptive to a discreet
approach from the USG bilaterally that minimized Vietnam's
loss of face and allowed Vietnam to frame any possible
decision as proactive and not based on foreign pressure.
Reinforcing the message discreetly through similar
approaches from other governments - especially including
ASEAN neighbors and other Asian countries - would also be
effective. We believe that that the GVN would be very
receptive to assistance, especially on the poultry
management side, if this could be provided in a timely
manner. The GVN has agreed, in principle, to join the
International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza

-- Thus far, neither Prime Minister Phan Van Khai nor any of
his three deputies has publicly assumed control over the
issue. We believe that standing Deputy Prime Minister
Nguyen Tan Dung is normally in charge of the GVN response.
GVN interagency coordination is weak and the ministries are
"stovepiped." USG officials would contact the Ministry of
Health (MOH) and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development (MARD) for human health and animal health
inquiries, respectively. Leadership in MARD is generally
viewed as effective and focused. MARD Minister Cao Duc Phat
has been tasked with coordinating the GVN to meet the AI
threat. Post also works closely with and through
multilateral organizations such as the Hanoi offices of the
World Health Organization (WHO), U.N. Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), and United Nations Development Program.
HHS is in the process of seconding an influenza expert to
WHO/Hanoi. The expected date of arrival is unknown. HHS
has announced a position for a Public Health Advisor to work
with the Heath Attache to facilitate distribution and
disbursement of funds for AI assistance to country. USDA is
in the process of identifying a poultry AI expert to work
closely with MARD on the vaccination program and other
remedial measures.

-- AI has been in the media and has been clearly identified
as the cause of a number of deaths around the country.
Occasionally, the GVN issues directives on measures which
should be taken to avoid the threat. The GVN has requested
assistance to develop information materials and campaigns to
train farmers and health care works about AI prevention.
Non-governmental organizations are working in selected
provinces to train human and animal health workers about AI
prevention. Most observers agree that a lack of
understanding of basic AI issues remains acute especially in
rural areas.

2. (SBU) Additional questions:

-- The GVN is already working with many multilateral
organizations such as WHO, FAO and UNDP and has requested
and invited international donors to provide AI-related

-- The People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) would have
responsibility to support and possibly enforce health
restrictions, or medical quarantines in reaction to AI
crisis developments, especially in the rural and border
areas. In rural areas, PAVN forces provide much of the
basic health support and also implement some national
programs in those remote areas. In urban areas and along
major national road networks, police and related security
forces most often are the forces that administer traffic
control and commerce monitoring. Control of health
restrictions would likely be delegated to those (police and
security) forces, together with quarantine service officers.
Local corruption and availability of off-road or secondary
routes would diminish the effectiveness of all national
efforts by military or security forces to control or
quarantine crisis situations.

-- Vietnam desperately needs international assistance to
counter the AI threat to its animals and people. We do not
see any real possibility that the GVN would impose a quid-
pro-quo for accepting U.S. help.

-- There are no formal mechanisms, per se, for providing
additional information to the population. It should be
noted, however, that even in local villages and communes,
the Vietnamese population is relatively literate and many
people watch GVN television, listen to GVN radio, and read
GVN newspapers everyday. While the GVN and Communist Party
of Vietnam have well established communications networks
even in rural areas, it is not clear that these have been
activated on AI.


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