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UPDATE 1-Vietnam seeks 31 mln doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 2021

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(Adds details, background)

By Phuong Nguyen

HANOI, May 14 (Reuters) - Vietnam is seeking 31 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech in 2021, its health ministry said on Friday, as the country seeks to secure its vaccines amid competition and supply uncertainty.

By end-2021, Vietnam expects to have received a total of 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including those of Pfizer/BioNTech, 30 million from AstraZeneca and 38.9 million doses via the COVAX scheme, the ministry said in a statement.

It said Vietnam had made a request for an additional 10 million doses under the COVAX initiative.

The Southeast Asian country is seeking to expedite its domestic inoculation programme as it tackles a new outbreak that has reached 26 of its 63 provinces.

Though it has made a slow start, its caseload remains relatively low with just 3,756 infections and 35 deaths recorded overall, due largely to its strong containment measures.

The health ministry said on Friday it was also in talks to purchase the COVID-19 vaccine of German biotech firm CureVac .

Reuters on Wednesday reported the World Health Organization was reviewing a proposal by an unidentified vaccine manufacturer in Vietnam to become an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine technology hub in the Southeast Asian country. Vietnam's homegrown vaccine, Covivac, is expected to be available by 2022, the government said.

Neighbour Philippines said on Friday it was aiming to secure 40 million doses of the Pfizer/Biotech vaccine, in what could be its first supply agreement. Earlier this month it received 190,000 shots of the same vaccine via COVAX. (Reporting by Phuong Nguyen in Hanoi; additional, reporting by Karen Lema in Manila; Editing by Martin Petty)